Matisse the Master: v. 2

Matisse the Master: v. 2 : A Life of Henri Matisse 1909-1954

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In this astounding book (winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year 2005), Hilary Spurling's fascinating exploration of Matisse's world uncovers the secret life of the artist, whose paintings shocked and infuriated his contemporaries while paving the way for modern art. This beautifully presented second volume tells the story of Matisse's growing artistic maturity and the relationship between his life and art from 1909 to 1954, his glory more

Product details

  • Hardback | 544 pages
  • 182 x 236 x 40mm | 1,378.93g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • Hamish Hamilton Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 2nd Revised edition
  • 160 b&w & 27 colour
  • 0241133394
  • 9780241133392
  • 1,618,225

Review quote

Reactions to Hilary Spurling's"The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse, vol. I, 1869-1908 "published autumn 1998 by Knopf (US) & Penguin (UK) US REVIEWS 'Hilary Spurling has given us a definitive biography that reads like a detective story. It is an extraordinary and brilliant book . . . extraordinary in revealing . . . so much about Matisse that was previously unknown and unexpected . . . brilliant in the clarity and compactness of its prose and in the sharpness of the insights that appear on page after page . . . This is a truly indispensable biography . . . vividly drawn, utterly compelling and profoundly moving.'-John Elderfield, Museum of Modern Art, New York. One can only eagerly await the second volume of Spurling's definitive biography of Henri Matisse. -J. Carter Brown, Director of the National Gallery of Art, "New York Times Book Review," Again and again the reader fears for Matisse, as in a good novel: how will he get out of this hole? who will buy his work? what if he gives up? . . . Her second volume cannot arrive too soon.-Julian Barnes, "New York Times Book Review" 'This is a marvellous book-beautifully written, masterly in its research and wonderfully wise in its depiction of character, circumstance and the vicissitudes of the artist's vocation.' -Hilton Kremer, "Washington Times" 'Spurling brushes aside all our preconceptions about the painter to reveal a personality-and a personal history-none of us had guessed at. . . . This first volume of a full biography of Matisse is a triumph of research and writing, a work of literature worthy of its subject.'-Richard Dorment, "New York Review of Books" "The UnknownMatisse "is aptly titled . . . Unlike the luckier and more charmed Picasso, Matisse was haunted by the specter of failure, poverty and ridicule, in part because he-again, unlike Picasso-experienced all three. . . . It's thrilling to learn what Matisse was looking at, what he experimented with, endured and suffered on the way to becoming one of the great painters of our century.'-Francine Prose, "Washington Post" 'Her clear narrative keeps one turning the pages almost as if reading a novel . . . a major accomplishment and sure to be a landmark in the literature on Matisse.'-Jack Flam, "Art News" 'This book is marvellous to read. Having finished it, one wants to start all over again.'-Svetlana Alpers, "Key Reporter" 'An extraordinary new view of Matisse . . . When I first heard that Hilary Spurling was planning to write about Henri Matisse, I wondered what an English literary biographer could possibly tell me about my intensely French artist grandfather . . . The results are absolutely astonishing. For anyone interested in Matisse's work, this book will be a revelation . . . The book is almost like a mystery story, packed with surprising developments . . . Once started this is a very hard book to put down. I couldn't recommend it too highly.'-Paul Matisse, Amazon online 'A smashing good biography . . . Hilary Spurling's role is advocate, and she is a formidable one . . . A painter's development is both an intimate and an open transaction, and Spurling makes us feel its peril.'-Editors' Choice, Best Books of 1998, "New York Times Book Review" 'Spurling's book is the opposite of the massive bound collections of file cards that are biography's currentfashion. . . . I do not know of another book which, while lavishly setting its subject among his fellows, illuminates so searchingly the human and artistic struggles of a painter's life.'-Richard Eder's 10 Best Books, "Los Angeles Times" "Hilary Spurling has written a rich and deeply illuminating life, with all the feeling and passion for the work that Henri Matisse himself would have appreciated. This is a true biographical masterpiece." -Mark Bostridge, The Independent on Sunday "A quite glorious biography . . . Hilary Spurling fixes his story with great humanity and rigorous scholarship . . . She has dug among the archives and looked very exactly at the pictures, but she doesn't read backwards from them as though they were somehow inevitable; she sees the risk and drama in each . . . This is a biography with the tact and timing of a very good novel." -Michael Pye, The Scotsman "Spurling has done better than anyone else at uncovering intimate information about Matisse. She has interviewed more people than anyone else; has combed the public archives more thoroughly; and, most important of all, has had greater access than any previous researcher to Matisse's correspondence. This volume is full of previously unknown incidents and details that correct mistakes and misapprehensions and that clarify or expand the known record to complete what is, astonishingly, the very first serious biography of the artist-and destined to remain the standard biography for a long time." -John Elderfield, The Guardian "Superb . . . A reviewer called the first volume of this biography 'a sunburst.' Now thatSpurling's long task is completed, I can only repeat the compliment: her book is both dazzling and warming." -Peter Conrad, The Observer "Inspired and innovative biography . . . What is remarkable about this book is the way that Spurling enters into the character of her subject, communicating his charm, his obsessiveness and restlessness, his enjoyment of life, his vulnerability, the tensions within him, and-hardest of all-his creativity . . . "What is particularly impressive is her ability to weave a huge amount of [primary] material into an easy and, at one level, entertaining narrative, with her subject's voice as one of many. Her touching account of Matisse's relationship with the elderly Renoir in the south of France is a good example of her artistry. Lucid and unhurried as it is, this is a major work of scholarship, which must transform our view of the artist's work . . . "The narrative is sustained by her sensitivity and her ability to convey-often through quotation-the artist's emotions as well as the physical process of creating the work. The biographer's feeling for the period creates one of the most pleasurable aspects of the book: its evocation of life in artistic circles, whether Paris around 1910, St Petersburg before 1914 or the south of France during the Second World War . . . "Matisse is not directly described in this biography; rather, his character and his creativity are suggested by innumerable touches, as it were, of paint. Spurling has shown herself a writer worthy of her subject." -Giles Waterfield, The Independent UK REVIEWS 'Outstanding as an interpreter of his art and life alike, she provides fresh illumination on every page. It is a superlative achievement.'-Richard Cork, "The Times" "Spurling's Matisse is an outstanding biography, as full of insight into the pictures as it is revealing about the man. It is not necessary to have read the first volume to enjoy the second instalment, though it is certain that new readers will want to return to his formative years. They will not be disappointed." -Jeanette Winterson, The Times (London) "I cannot praise Spurling's measured, brilliantly researched and wonderfully written biography enough." -Adrian Searle, The Guardian "Every day, Matisse set aside an hour or more to write letters to family and friends. Only a small portion of these has been published. Spurling, an expert at mustering biographical evidence, draws on this source material to gripping effect. Her account activates small details, such as the physical constraints that undermine creativity, as well as key relationships, including Matisse's involvement with important collectors . . . "Spurling's monumental biography challenges [the view that Matisse was a lightweight compared to Picasso]. It deepens and makes more complex our understanding of Matisse." -Frances Spalding, The Sunday Times 'Spurling Volume 1 invites comparison with John Richardson's "Life of Picasso" . . . her achievement is in some respects even greater than Richardson's . . . Hilary Spurling has transformed Matisse studies.' -William Feaver, "Times Educational Supplement" 'A superlative achievement . . . It is a dramatic, moving and sometimes comical story, and all one can hope is that, without relaxing her admirably rigorous standards, Spurling won't keep us waiting very long for Volume Two.'-Elizabeth Cowling, "Times Literary Supplement" 'Matisse . . . suggests the opposite of the strenuous, discomforting novelty which so much of the art of this century has aimed at embodying . . . It is the purpose of this biography, triumphantly achieved, to reverse that notion in every detail . . . this book transforms our sense not only of Matisse but also of his work.'-Martin Gayford, "Sunday Telegraph" 'Miraculous . . . the best life of a painter that I have ever read . . . For all the intelligence and sensibility of her approach, Spurling charts [Matisse's life] with the agonising excitement of great fiction.' -Grey Gowrie, "Daily Telegraph" "From the Hardcover edition."show more

About Hilary Spurling

Hilary Spurling is a prize-winning biographer whose books include Ivy: The Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett, Paul Scott, La Grande Therese and The Girl from the Fiction Department, as well as The Unknown Matisse. She is a regular book reviewer for the Observer and The Daily Telegraph and lives in more

Review Text

The concluding volume of the first biography of the groundbreaking artist Henri Matisse, offering compelling insight and tiresome domestic details. This expansive, prodigiously researched book from Spurling (The Unknown Matisse, 1998) familiarizes us not only with Matisse's revolutionary art but his relationships with family and friends, his various aches and pains and his travels. Spurling is at her best when illustrating just how radical Matisse was. Few of his contemporaries understood his paintings-memorable works including 1910's Dance (II) and 1912's Goldfish-or his taste in art (he favored African carvings). The artist's own work inspired violent public criticism. Truth is, even his friends and admirers at times weren't quite sure of what he was up to, though they did understand what critics eventually acknowledged: his use of color was revolutionary. The best chapters outline Matisse's long career. Lesser sections rely too heavily on mundane descriptions of his everyday life: Matisse raising his children, Matisse fretting over where he should travel next to paint, Matisse generally embracing a bourgeois lifestyle that appeared completely different from that of his friend and contemporary Pablo Picasso. The artist's own remark, "If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to would amaze everyone," is only true to a point, as it is for any man. Still, Spurling is exceptional at capturing Matisse's personality and his interests, those crucial elements to understanding his output, and she ably dramatizes his final years. Even at the end of his life, as his health deteriorated, Matisse remained prolific. "As Matisse's race with death accelerated, he feared each work might be his last," the author writes. "His superabundant vitality" exhausted even his young assistants. Rich and colorful, if somewhat bulky, tribute to a visionary. (24 pp of color illustrations, 159 B&W illustrations) (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

266 ratings
4.14 out of 5 stars
5 41% (110)
4 38% (100)
3 16% (43)
2 4% (11)
1 1% (2)
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