These two relatively new books on Henri Matisse offer complementary accounts of his life and work and make for a great elementary artist study. Colorful Dreamer by Marjorie Blain Parker looks at Matisse’s entire life, with about half the book in the period before he really became an artist. The most striking thing about the book is the illustrations which mirror the description of Matisse’s development as an artist. In the beginning when he is a child living in a small industrial French town, everything is shown in black and white pencil sketches except his dreams which are in vivid color. The black and white color scheme continues through his law clerk days and hospitalization with appendicitis. However, while hosptialized his mother brought him a box of paints and when we turn the page it sings with color and movement. The next pages gradually become all color. Even more striking, the illustrations in the second half show visually show Matisse’s change in styles from realistic to fauvist to the final pages which show a town much like he may have grown up in but in the style of his famous paper cutouts. This is one of the more effective ways I’ve seen to have kids really feel how an artist’s style changes over time.
Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter focuses briefly covers Matisse’s early years but instead focuses on the time after he is confined to bed as an old man and how he managed to find a way to continue creating art when he couldn’t paint by using his giant paper cutouts. Winter includes actual quotes from Matisse and gives much more detail on how the cutouts were made than in Colorful Dreamer. Winter’s illustrations more directly reflect the shapes and feel of the cutouts and indeed, she actually uses cut paper for some of them.
Art books are an accompaniment to what I call “Art with Daddy” on David’s weekly schedule. David is very much like H. in many ways and one of those is his creativity and love of art. This project took them three weekly art sessions to complete (one to make the painted paper, one to work on the cutouts and one to put it all together) and I think it turned out beautifully.
Visit Non-Fiction Monday for more great juvenile non-fiction!