Henri Matisse by Alastair Sooke - an essential guide to one of the 20th century's greatest artists
'One January morning in 1941, only a fortnight or so after his seventy-first birthday, the bearded and bespectacled French artist Henri Matisse was lying in a hospital bed preparing to die.'
Diagnosed with cancer, the acclaimed painter, and rival of Picasso, seemed to be facing his demise. Then something unexpected happened. After a life-saving operation that left him too weak to paint, and often too frail to even get out of bed, Matisse invented a ground-breaking and effortless new way of making art. The results rank among his greatest work.
In an astonishing blaze of creativity, he began conjuring mesmerising designs of dazzling dancers and thrilling tightrope walkers, sensuous swimmers and mythical figures falling from the heavens. His joyful and unprecedented new works were as spontaneous as jazz music and as wondrous as crystal-clear lagoons. Their medium? Coloured paper and scissors.
This book, by art critic and broadcaster Alastair Sooke, focuses on Matisse's extraordinary final decade, which he called 'a second life', after he had returned from the grave. Both a biography and a guide to Matisse's 'cut-outs', it tells the story of the valedictory flourish of one of the most important and beloved artists of the twentieth century.
Published in time for a major Tate Modern retrospective.
'Sooke is an immensely engaging character. He has none of the weighty self-regard that often afflicts art experts and critics; rather he approaches his subjects with a questioning, open, exploratory attitude' Sarah Vine, The Times
'His shows are excellent - clever, lively, scholarly, but not too lecturey; he's very good at linking his painters with the world outside the studio, and at how these artists have affected the world today' Sam Wollaston reviewing 'Modern Masters', Guardian
Alastair Sooke is art critic of the Daily Telegraph. He has written and presented documentaries on television and radio for the BBC, including Modern Masters, The World's Most Expensive
Paintings, Treasures of Ancient Rome and, most recently, Treasures of Ancient Egypt. He is a regular reporter for The Culture Show on BBC Two. He is the author of Roy Lichtenstein: How Modern Art was Saved by Donald Duck.