MATISSE by Hayden Herrera


A Portrait
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 Sympathetic bio-critical study of the French painter once savaged for his radical style. The most intriguing thing about Matisse was his bourgeois life, which included law school, a family (with kids), and--after some years of searing poverty--mounds of money: Hardly the background one expects of a man who, for a time, was perceived as Picasso's equal in the creation of modern art and was portrayed as an artistic terrorist or pervert by critics on both sides of the Atlantic. But, as art historian Herrera (Frida, 1983, etc.) points out, Matisse did indeed shock with his early canvases, especially in 1905, when he invented Fauvism, with its garish tints and barbaric strokes. Matisse enjoyed the limelight until Picasso left him in the dust by developing cubism, whose geometric forms were so unlike Matisse's color-oriented canvases. For the next three or four decades, Matisse led a successful artist's life, devising a simplified, decorator's style ``radiant with Mediterranean sunlight.'' His paintings were also steeped with eroticism; Matisse liked to put one hand on his nude model's knee as he painted with the other. In his last years, a burst of creativity with colored- paper cut-outs led to new accolades and did nothing to hurt his reputation as a feel-good artist (a description Matisse wouldn't have minded, since he believed that his paintings could cure disease). As Herrera explains, Matisse's family and friends continue to keep his private life under wraps. This leads to a study thick with surface details (many of the paintings are closely described) but too shallow to encompass the inner currents. (Twenty-eight color, 80 b&w illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-158183-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993


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