With Henri’s Scissors, Jeanette Winter, whose sensitive, colorful books I’ve praised previously, provides a sharp focus on Henri Matisse’s bright collages that blossomed with the cut-paper creations of his later years.
Using simple language, the acclaimed author/illustrator introduces Henri as a creative child inspired by his mother to draw and to paint. In adulthood, Matisse abandons the field of law and turns to art, his true calling. Readers get a sense of the artist’s style, as Winter incorporates a bright palette, swirling cut-paper and acrylic images, and her own representations of many of Matisse’s famous artworks.
When Matisse’s health fails and he can no longer paint, Winter depicts the bed-bound artist’s bleak world with dark yet star-filled pages. After Matisse discovers another way to create art, the book brightens, along with the life of the artist. “A pair of scissors is a wonderful instrument,” he says. He proceeds to fill his room with a paper forest of vivid colors and supple contours. “As time went on, Matisse cut bigger and bigger shapes. They filled his seaside room with color.”
This brief but exemplary picture book uses quotes from letters Matisse wrote to his friend Andre Rouveyre, collected in Matisse: A Second Life (Hazen, 2005). Best of all, Henri’s Scissors leaves readers with the exhilarating sense that creativity can evolve and continue to enrich life. The author includes a beautiful quote from the fabulous collage artist Romare Bearden: “Matisse got as close as one can get to heaven with a pair of scissors.” Recommended for ages 4 to 7.
Also see my post on Bryan Collier and these fine books (first title recommended for ages 5 to 7, other titles for ages 7 to 10.)