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

Hilary Spurling
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

28 Sep 2006
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 years.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 2 edition (28 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140176055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140176056
  • Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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."

About the Author

Hilary Spurling is a prize-winning biographer whose books include Ivy: The Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett, Paul Scott, La Grande Thérèse 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 London.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars See New Dimensions of Matisse's Work 27 Dec 2005
By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Those of us who live today are spoiled in one sense that we don't realize: We can see Matisse's work on display and appreciate its evolution. That wasn't possible until just the last few decades. Until then, many of his most powerful works were locked up in the Soviet system and not on display or were in the hands of reclusive collectors.
That's an important point to remember when you wonder why Picasso has gotten so much more attention than Matisse, you could always see Picasso's work and Picasso courted attention.
Matisse, by comparison, found that it took all of his energies just to create art. There was very little time left over for his family and the rest of the world. He also wasn't inclined to seek out those who could explain and defend his work. As a result, he was widely misunderstood and underappreciated during his lifetime. This book corrects many of those problems.
Of particularly interest is the finding that although Matisse spent his life painting voluptuous nudes, he didn't indulge in having sexual relations with his models. Rather he used the sexual tension the models created in him to help inspire a better work. The models did become, ultimately, the undoing of his marriage . . . but not for the reasons you expect.
As fascinating as he is as an artist, he even more interesting as a creative person and head of a family. Matisse saw his family's role as being there to serve art. Although in a crisis, he would show up to encourage and aid family members and friends . . . usually he was off painting or sculpting by himself in sunnier climes. The rest of the time, they were doing administrative tasks, critiquing the works, staying out of his way and helping him enjoy a tranquil existence.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In living colour... 26 Jan 2006
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
The life of Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse is a remarkable one - author Hilary Sprung has spent years in careful and caring research to bring to life in pages this master of painting. Matisse is one of the giants of modern art; Picasso long considered him is only true rival. As the title of this volume indicates (volume 2 of a set, the first one published a few years ago dealing with the first 40 years of Matisse's life), he is noted for bold and original use of colour in his paintings. His influences include Van Gogh, Gaugain and Cézanne, so how could he not be so directed?
In a time when the world's attention is focused upon New Orleans, it is worthwhile to mention Matisse's own connection, with his work 'Jazz', a title inspired by the improvisational, free-and-easy style that Jazz musicians performed in response to the world around them. This was done during a period of severe illness, and Matisse used a collage method for this work because he was too weak to paint.
This volume follows Matisse from his maturity as an artist to the time of his death. The decline of the Fauvist movement did not hurt Matisse, whose productivity continued in Paris and the Riviera. Spurling includes his artistic life, his personal and family life, as well as his relationships with other artists and professionals in her sweeping narrative.
Spurling had generous access to Matisse's letters and private papers - he devoted nearly an hour a day at some points in his life to carrying on correspondence, and much of this has been preserved. Spurling also conducted countless hours of interviews with people, and was able to bring this large mass of material together in an entertaining and inspiring way.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In living colour... 5 Jan 2006
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
The life of Henri-Émile-Benot Matisse is a remarkable one - author Hilary Sprung has spent years in careful and caring research to bring to life in pages this master of painting. Matisse is one of the giants of modern art; Picasso long considered him is only true rival. As the title of this volume indicates (volume 2 of a set, the first one published a few years ago dealing with the first 40 years of Matisse's life), he is noted for bold and original use of colour in his paintings. His influences include Van Gogh, Gaugain and Cézanne, so how could he not be so directed?
In a time when the world's attention is focused upon New Orleans, it is worthwhile to mention Matisse's own connection, with his work 'Jazz', a title inspired by the improvisational, free-and-easy style that Jazz musicians performed in response to the world around them. This was done during a period of severe illness, and Matisse used a collage method for this work because he was too weak to paint.
This volume follows Matisse from his maturity as an artist to the time of his death. The decline of the Fauvist movement did not hurt Matisse, whose productivity continued in Paris and the Riviera. Spurling includes his artistic life, his personal and family life, as well as his relationships with other artists and professionals in her sweeping narrative.
Spurling had generous access to Matisse's letters and private papers - he devoted nearly an hour a day at some points in his life to carrying on correspondence, and much of this has been preserved. Spurling also conducted countless hours of interviews with people, and was able to bring this large mass of material together in an entertaining and inspiring way.
Read more ›
Comment | 
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