The Iridescence of Birds; a Book About Henri Matisse

by on February 26th, 2015
The Iridescence of Birds; a Book About Henri Matisse Cover Image

A new picture book biography by Patricia MacLachlan is special in every way.  The reviews have been great and it’s no wonder.  The text is spare and suitable for K-3.  I love how the author has made a book about a famous artist accessible for young children. The book begins, “If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary town in northern France where the skies were gray and the days were cold and you wanted color and light and sun….”  We learn how he added vivid color to his surroundings and noticed with an artist’s eye the lovely things around him.  Encouraged  by his beloved mother, Henri learned to observe color, light, texture, and beauty. He loved the china plates his mother painted, the bright red rugs she hung on the walls, the fruit and flowers his mother brought home for him to arrange on the table, and the beautiful silk clothes the townspeople wore.  Henri especially loved raising pigeons and observing how the sun made their feathers look iridescent in the light creating a shimmering effect.  MacLachlan says it is no surprise that Matisse grew up to be a fine painter. The seed was planted in his youngest years when his mother gave him a set of paints to mix and notice the wonderful colors he could make on paper.  The artwork in The Iridescence of Birds is by Hadley Hooper.  After much research she decided to use relief printing.  Hooper cut the characters and backgrounds out of stiff foam and cardboard, inked them up, made the prints, and then scanned them into Photoshop.  The results are fabulous!

 matisseIn his old age, Matisse turned to paper collage and cutting with scissors became his mode of expression.  Another terrific picture book about his life is entitled, Henri’s Scissors, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter.  She focuses on the artist’s later years when he was confined to a bed and a wheelchair.  Here Matisse is depicted using colored paper and scissors and employing his vivid imagination to create artwork that his assistants put up on the walls of his seaside cottage.  “A pair of scissors is a wonderful instrument,” says Matisse.  He wonders why he never thought of using the technique of paper cutting for his designs earlier.  In this book the pictures Winter creates are done in acrylics and cut paper.

Both books would pair nicely together and art teachers will find these titles useful in their classrooms.  Parents will enjoy sharing them with their young children to foster their own creativity….and maybe give them a set of paints after reading the books together!  Both books also include author’s notes with further information about Henri Matisse and suggestions for reading.

Leave a Reply

Previous Post

Next Post