My latest book about Matisse (Reaktion Books, 2021) explores the artist’s long career, beginning with his struggles as a student in Paris and culminating in his celebrated use of paper cut-outs and stained glass in the last decade of his life. The book challenges various myths about Matisse and offers a fresh perspective on his creativity and legacy. Chapters explore the artist’s enthusiasm for fashion and cinema, his travels, personal ties, interest in African art, love of literature, and willingness to challenge audience expectations. Matisse is also revealed as an astute businessman who understood that art was an enterprise that needed to be managed. Through close readings of critical reactions to Matisse’s works, the book offers new insight into the artist’s friendships and battles with dealers, critics, collectors, and fellow artists.
My book Matisse’s Poets: Critical Performance in the Artist’s Book (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017) explores Matisse’s lifelong engagement with literature. Throughout his career, Henri Matisse used imagery as a means of engaging critically with poetry and prose by a diverse range of authors. My book offers a new account of Matisse’s position in the literary cross-currents of twentieth-century France and explores ways in which reading influenced the artist’s work in a range of media. This study argues that the livre d’artiste became the privileged means by which Matisse enfolded literature into his own idiom and demonstrated the centrality of his aesthetic to modernist debates about authorship and creativity. By tracing the compositional and interpretive choices that Matisse made as a painter, print maker, and reader in the field of book production, this study offers a new theoretical account of visual art’s capacity to function as a form of literary criticism and extends debates about the gendering of twentieth-century bibliophilia. This book also demonstrates the importance of Matisse’s self-placement in relation to the French literary canon in the charged political climate of the Second World War and its aftermath. Through a combination of archival resources, art history, and literary criticism, this study offers a new interpretation of Matisse’s artist’s books and will be of interest to art historians, literary scholars, and researchers in book history.
You can read reviews of the book in French Studies, CAA Reviews and Leonardo.
My related publications include:
‘Against Autobiography: Henri Matisse’s Writings on Art’ in Life Writing (Taylor & Francis) (May, 2014).
‘Influence as Appropriation of the Creative Gesture: Matisse’s Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans’ in (eds), Thomas Baldwin, James Fowler and Ana de Medeiros, Questions of Influence in Modern European Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 84–97.
‘Enacting Beauty: Baudelaire, Matisse, and Les Fleurs du mal’ in K. Brown (ed.), The Art Book Tradition in Twentieth–Century Europe (2013, Ashgate), pp. 31–44.
Book Review: Stephanie d’Alessandro and John Elderfield, Matisse, Radical Invention: 1913–1917 in Print Quarterly, XXIX, 1/2012, pp. 66–9.
Related conference presentations and invited papers include:
‘Matisse and Orientalist Cinema’, Tulane University, USA, 2019
‘Film, Fashion, and the South of France: Matisse in Nice’, Saint Louis Art Museum, 2018.
‘Invoquer Apollinaire: Le livre d’artiste comme grimoire’, Les métamorphoses d’Apollinaire, University of Turin, 2018.
‘Portraiture Unleashed: Henri Matisse’s Images of Charles Baudelaire’. Portraiture Conference, Durham University, 2018.
‘Henri Matisse’s Pasiphaé: Myth, Politics, War’, The Grolier Club, New York, 20 June 2017
‘Dessiner les mots, entendre la couleur: Matisse, Jazz, et «l’echec» du livre’: École normale supérieure, Paris, Séminaire Texte et Image, Groupe de Recherche (November, 2016)
‘Ethics and Interpretative Violence: Matisse’s Unpublished Illustrations for Mallarmé’s L’Après-midi d’un faune’, Society for French Studies Annual Conference (Glasgow, June, 2016).
‘Henri Matisse’s Jazz on the Edge’: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art/University of Edinburgh (December, 2014).
‘Performing Civic Virtue in the Artist’s Book: Henri Matisse’s Pasiphaé’, Annual Conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (Antwerp, September, 2014).
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Matisse in his Studio (1944).