Written in the style of a school report, Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors (Smart About Art) written by Jane O’Connor and Illustrated by Jessie Hartland does a great job of depicting the evolution of Matisse as an artist from his first still life to his last paper cut outs. It’s a great way to encourage children to use their imagination and also shows them how much people and styles can change during a lifetime. I know my children can find it frustrating when their drawings on paper do not match the images in their heads. In the book it says, “I read that Henri was hardly ever satisfied with what he did the first time around. He was always making changes and painting over things.” That’s a great thing for a child to keep in mind and it’s also fun to look at Matisse’s pictures and try and guess at the changes he made in arriving at the final picture. In a recent trip to the local art museum, the docent had us look for things that were missing in pictures. In one painting, it was quite clear that someone had been painted out and my children had a lot of fun looking at other paintings for changes or things that didn’t quite belong. Kessia, the “author” of the report finds lots of things to look at in Matisse’s pictures that would be fun to try in a museum. She looks at all the different patterns in a particular picture, how many different patterns there are, how many shades of one color he uses, and also has fun guessing at the subjects of his more abstract works.
This was great introduction to Matisse’s work. My boys had a hard time believing that the representational style in his first paintings and the more abstract depictions in his cutouts were by the same artist. We looked back at their artwork as well and at how much their art had changed in just a few months and they had fun making their own cut outs. We also talked about adapting to changing capabilities and they thought about things they could do now that they hadn’t been able to do earlier (a bit in reverse from Matisse, but an important thing for them to think about nonetheless).
There are many places to see Matisse’s work as you travel. Currently there is a Matisse Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art running through March 17, 2013 in New York. One of the largest collections of Matisse’s work is at the Matisse Museum in Nice. Icarus from Jazz is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The National Portrait Gallery in Scotland which is nearby even has sleepovers for kids! The Femme au Chapeau depicted in the book is at the San Francisco Museum of Modern art. They have some great resources for exploring the museum with kids. Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors is a good introduction to different styles of art and if you’re planning a trip to a city with a few Matisses on exhibit, it’s a good place to start.