Matisse: The Books
Louise Rogers Lalaurie
Thames & Hudson, 2020
The livre d’artiste, or ‘artist’s book’, born out of the French Belle Epoque, is a celebration of high aestheticism and refined craftsmanship. Matisse’s eight limited-edition, painstakingly crafted livres d’artiste were created during a period of illness and intense personal suffering for the artist, and conflict and occupation for France. Vilified by peers such as Picasso for remaining in the ‘Free’ Vichy Zone throughout the Second World War, and sidelined by the conservatism of the critical establishment, Matisse produced these works at a key turning point, before the extraordinary ‘second life’of his paper cut-outs. In concert with an eclectic selection of poetry, drama and, tantalizingly, the artist’s own words, the books’ images offer an astonishing portrait of creative resistance and regeneration. But while individual elements are widely reproduced, their origins and context are often overlooked.
With deftness and sensitivity, Louise Rogers Lalaurie reintroduces us to Matisse’s books. Examining the page-by-page interplay between text and images, translating key sequences and discussing each book’s distinct themes and context, the author offers the thoughtful, illuminating close reading they require. Generously illustrated with archival images and new photography, Matisse: The Books offers readers unprecedented insight into the experience of reading – and looking at – Matisse’s books.