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.