The Iridescence of Birds: A book about Henri Matisse and the way childhood influenced his art

Patricia MacLachlan, The Iridescence of Birds. A Book About Henri Matisse. Pictures by Hadley Hooper

Printed 2014 by Roaring Brook Press, 40p


Matisse first started to paint in his early twenties during a period of convalescence when his mother brought him paint supplies but his formation as an artist had actually begun many years before, in his childhood.

Patricia MacLachlan and Hadley Hooper beautifully explore the first years in Matisse’s life, presenting the support and influence of his mother and her contribution to  the development of the boy’s artistic sense. Henri was born in December 1869 in northern France where the skies were gray and the days were cold.


As he longed for colour and light, and sun his mother tried to brighten his days. She painted plates with nature scenes and put red rugs on the walls of the house. Together they mixed colours and bought flowers and fruit from the market which Henri arranged on the table. He raised pigeons, learning about the beauty and natural colours of the world. Enriched by the measureless emotions of his childhood, little Henri would become the famous Henri Matisse, a representative figure of the 20th century modern art, one of the greatest colourists.


Would it be a surprise that you grew up to be a fine painter/ Who painted red rooms/ And flowers that danced on green stems/ And fruit in a bowl/ On a blue and white tablecloth. Would it be a surprise that you became/ A fine painter who painted/ Light and Movement/ And the iridescence of birds?

MacLachlan’s poetry and Hooper’s artwork lead to an exceptional, innovative result. The adult Matisse is introduced to the reader on a right page, as a reflection of the young Matisse who is kept by Hooper on the left page, reminding readers that adulthood is based on childhood and pointing out one more time that the painter’s genius was shaped in his early years of life.



In writing this book I think I found the answer to the question that inspired it. Henri Matisse painted what he saw and what he remembered – he painted his feelings and he painted his childhood.

Patricia MacLachlan says referring to the genesis of her beautiful book.

Complement The Iridescence of Birds with Linnea in Monet’s Garden, a beautiful art lesson on Impressionism and Claude Monet and with a charming ilustrated Frida Kahlo biography.

Source of the illustrations:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s