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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Henri's Scissors, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2013. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"But when Matisse
was an old man, he fell ill -
so ill he couldn't paint,
so ill he couldn't sit up,
so ill he could only lie in
bed and sleep.

His paintings floated by
in his dreams."

I am always interested in the subject matter that Jeanette Winter decides to pursue. I am a big fan, and many of her books remain on my book shelves to be shared again and again. In choosing to tell Henri Matisse's life story, she gives us another way to look at the changing perspective of his work.

In his early life Henri was encouraged by his mother's love of art and painting. He drew pictures on everything that offered an outlet for his artistic the sand, in his schoolbooks, and later in the law books he was studying. When ill health caused an extended stay in bed for him, his mother provided for this creativity when she gave him a box of paints. It changed his life.

Moving to Paris, he became an artist who found great happiness in the work he did. It was an added bonus that people loved his work, and it made them happy, too. As he aged things changed, and so did Henri. He could no longer paint. He was filled with sadness and was unable to walk. A move to the seaside gave him new inspiration. Soon, he was drawing again. He also made a surprising discovery:

"Then one day Matisse
picked up a pair of scissors
and cut out shapes
from painted paper -
he was drawing with scissors!"

The rest they say is history. In his later life, he created collage work to decorate the walls of his house, and drew pictures of his grandchildren 'on the ceiling with a piece of chalk attached to a long pole.'  

Jeanette Winter is a gifted artist herself and used the inspiration she felt at seeing Matisse's collage work in the National Gallery to create this homage to one of the most important artists of the 20th century. By doing so, she has given her audience a quick peek at one artist's life through good times and bad.

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