Rich and colorful, if somewhat bulky, tribute to a visionary. (24 pp of color illustrations, 159 B&W illustrations)

The concluding volume of the first biography of the groundbreaking artist Henri Matisse, offering compelling insight and tiresome domestic details.

This expansive, prodigiously researched book from Spurling (The Unknown Matisse, 1998) familiarizes us not only with Matisse’s revolutionary art but his relationships with family and friends, his various aches and pains and his travels. Spurling is at her best when illustrating just how radical Matisse was. Few of his contemporaries understood his paintings—memorable works including 1910’s Dance (II) and 1912’s Goldfish—or his taste in art (he favored African carvings). The artist’s own work inspired violent public criticism. Truth is, even his friends and admirers at times weren’t quite sure of what he was up to, though they did understand what critics eventually acknowledged: his use of color was revolutionary. The best chapters outline Matisse’s long career. Lesser sections rely too heavily on mundane descriptions of his everyday life: Matisse raising his children, Matisse fretting over where he should travel next to paint, Matisse generally embracing a bourgeois lifestyle that appeared completely different from that of his friend and contemporary Pablo Picasso. The artist’s own remark, “If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to finish…it would amaze everyone,” is only true to a point, as it is for any man. Still, Spurling is exceptional at capturing Matisse’s personality and his interests, those crucial elements to understanding his output, and she ably dramatizes his final years. Even at the end of his life, as his health deteriorated, Matisse remained prolific. “As Matisse’s race with death accelerated, he feared each work might be his last,” the author writes. “His superabundant vitality” exhausted even his young assistants.

Rich and colorful, if somewhat bulky, tribute to a visionary. (24 pp of color illustrations, 159 B&W illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2005

ISBN: 0-679-43429-1

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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