Exhibition catalogue, 1997
95 pages; Three (3) essays, plus Forward and Introduction; Thirty-nine (39) illustrations, plus the cover; Three (3) photos. Essay Contributors: Marcia Reed, Curator of Collections, Getty Research Institute; Daren Wilde, University of California, Irvine; Reilly Rhodes, Curator for CMPE. Published by CMPE, Laguna Niguel, CA. This catalogue accompanies the touring exhibition Henri Matisse: A celebration of French Poets and Poetry.
Towards the end of his long and productive career as a painter, sculptor, and lithographer, the elderly and ailing Matisse was unable to stand and use a paintbrush for a longer period of time.
Matisse’s Amours: Illustrations of Pierre de Ronsard’s Love Poems includes a selection of lithographs from this exceptional but rarely considered livre d’artiste. What began in 1941 as a simple portfolio of 30 lithographs turned into a seven-year project culminating in the 128-page Florilège des Amours de Ronsard. This immense undertaking was made all the more extraordinary as Matisse not only illustrated the text but also selected the poems (which he translated from their 16th-century French prose), conceived the layout, chose the typeface and even designed and decorated the cardboard slip-cover in which the volume was packed.
Ronsard (1524–1585), deemed the father of French lyric poetry and credited with facilitating the modernization of the French language, explored playfully erotic themes in poems that were exceedingly well-suited to the interests of the French painter. As a result, the lithographs feature many of Matisse’s most familiar subjects—dancers, portraits of women, floral motifs and music. A profound harmony exists between the painter’s sinuous renderings and Ronsard’s lyric verse, and this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view a work of considerable import from Matisse’s late career. This publication serves as the exhibition catalogue that accompanies the touring exhibition Henri Matisse: A Celebration of French Poets and Poetry.