Matisse’s genius was that he never stopped exploring, even as he honored his intense childhood dreams of creativity, color and art.
Parker’s text is a pitch-perfect and appealing narrative, but the real star here is Berry’s art. She first offers careful, almost tight, school-notebooklike drawings of French cities and interiors that effectively convey the gray and noncreative aspects of Matisse’s childhood, relieved only by his colorful daydreams. After leaving his small town and working as a law clerk in Paris, Henri was freed from the prison of social convention through his mother’s simple gift of a paint box (to pass the time while convalescing from a serious illness). He then exuberantly embraced his life as an artist. Berry seamlessly infuses each successive spread with waves of the characteristically intense, almost excessively vivid, explosive color of the Fauves’ palette. She ingeniously incorporates much of Matisse’s now-iconic imagery (goldfish, Mediterranean rugs, busy fabrics, Tahitian jungle palm fronds, lemons, leaves, strong geometric shapes, stars and much more). Parker and Berry finally combine to movingly present the methods, meaning and passion that propelled Matisse’s later work—simple cutouts in bright monochromatic papers.
This inspiring and accessible picture book serves as a brilliant introduction to one artist’s vitality. The message? Like Matisse, we must never stop creating and experimenting. (author’s note, list of museums with Matisse artwork) (Picture book/biography. 3-5)