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Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse Volume Two
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Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse Volume Two

(Matisse #2)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Matisse was, with Picasso, one of the two great geniuses of 20th-century Western art. 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
Hardcover, 510 pages
Published April 26th 2005 by Hamish Hamilton (first published 2005)
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Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, france, art
Matisse The Master was a well researched biography of Henri Matisse from 1909 until his death in 1954 that reads like a suspense novel. It was interesting to see how his career and art progressed as well as the influences of two world wars on Matisse, his art and his family. This volume contains many sketches, color plates of his art and photographs as well to enhance your reading experience. It was incredible to see how Matisse was not appreciated by the art community at best and often reviled ...more
Oct 02, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art
This lengthy volume. I removed one star due to repetition of some key ideas again and agai, specially regarding Matisses's artwork: Almost every painting is described as a revolution. Almost at every turn Matisse is on the brink of becoming the most acclaimed artist of the twentieth century as if we needed to be constantly reminded (convinced?, I remain a sceptic). Almost every chapter starts by describing hardship and incomprehension stared down by sheer stubbornness and dedication and rewarded ...more
From BBC Radio 4 Extra:
Eleanor Bron reads from Hilary Spurling's biography of the great French artist. Abridged by Doreen Estall
Arvind Balasundaram
In the second part of her superlative biography of Matisse, Hilary Spurling provides a splendid portrait of the artist as painter and family man. Relying on a range of source material never before accessed, Spurling develops the painter's life narrative as a smorgasboard of many personalities that remained enigmatic even to his immediate circle, including his family. Feverishly dedicated to his vocation, he described his painting as "a rape of myself, a certain tenderness or weakening in the ...more
Debbie Morrison
This book is the phenomenal second volume of the two-part work of Matisse’s biography by Hilary Spurling. I have a newfound love and appreciation for Matisse’s work after reading of his tumultuous life, passion for his work and challenges both personal and professional. Matisse suffered from chronic insomnia and myriad of health problems that included intestinal cancer that came with significant complications that impacted his mobility in later years. Yet even when bedridden Matisse continued to ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-bios
A comprehensive look at Matisse's life as an artist. He was dedicated to his art, even through all his struggles in life. This biography of Matisse covers his art, working relationships, and personal life. A bit too long for my liking, but a good read for those interested in artist biographies.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Matisse has been my favorite artist for many decades. It has always fascinated me to see the many stages he progressed through in his art from the wild fauve period to the ornately patterned art and then the sublime paper cutouts. I had red only brief biogrphical sketches of his life before this and was practically exhausted reading how hard he worked to develop his art, how he agonized over his choices, and what a severe task master he was with himself and all of his family,

I found it was best
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Along with Quentin Bell's biography of Virginia Woolf, this and Spurling's first volume, 'The Unknown Matisse' are masterpieces of the life writer's art. From the artist's early days in the poor and dim north of France to his last days in the light-filled south, there's enough detail here to sink a lesser biographical vessel. There's so much that we didn't know before---Spurling's scholarship is exhaustive--- but it's all so well told. This is not the Matisse that introductory art history ...more
Mark Walker
Sep 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spurling achieves a difficult task in writing a faithful biography of Matisse. He was so overwhelmingly obsessed and committed to being an artist, it crowds out other parts of his life. What comes across is an uncompromising driven artist, who constantly was looking for new inspiration and mediums to express himself. He is a hard task master on all who come across him, including his family. But the person on whom he vents most of his challenge is on himself. One of the many interesting things ...more
Sep 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Art Lovers
Shelves: biography
As one who knows very little about modern art, this was a valuable way to learn about one if its great pioneers. This book covers Matisses' adult life, relating plenty of education about his work as well is a very detailed relating of his personal life. I would think that some people would like a shorter version of the story or, perhaps, a more direct explanation of Matisse' art and its importance.

Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france, art
Well worth reading to learn about Matisse the artist and Matisse the person, and those who surrounded, supported, and were part of his life.
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A biography of Matisse as well as the art world of his time and place. There is much detail, always appropriate and nothing to skim over. A fascinating exploration of the evolution and revolution of both the art world and the world, "Matisse the Master" moves through turn of the century Europe, a time of constant, often disturbing change.

The world was changing and Matisse was painting. His influence on the art and artists of Europe was embraced by some and disparaged by others. As exposure to
Mar 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give the first part a 1.5-2 star and the second have a 4-5 star...

Because of my lack of knowledge concerning both this artist and his style of painting in general I really struggled through the first couple hundred pages. It jumped right into him teaching art...with a daughter and new wife (not the mom of the daughter...but you didn't know that till much later in the book).

However, I thoroughly enjoyed the last couple hundred of pages. This was showing how his work and his life changed with
Bookmarks Magazine

Spurling devoted two volumes and more than 1,000 pages to her biography of Henri Matisse, and it is clear that she fell in love with the great artist by the time she had finished. Critics labeled Matisse the Master and its predecessor a monumental achievement worthy of its subject, and they noted that the second volume could easily stand on its own. Extensively researched and lovingly written, Spurling brings both the artist and his work to life, even for those already familiar with Matisse. If


4 Extra Debut.

1909, and Henri Matisse's critics call his paintings monstrous. Can he find support? Eleanor Bron reads Hilary Spurling's biography.

2. 1914, and with his family scattered across France, Matisse expresses the horror and uncertainty of the First World War in his art.

3. 1930, and Henri Matisse's painting is dramatically influenced by his visits to New York and Tahiti.

4. 1938, and now in his 60s, Henri Matisse's art must endure personal
Nov 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-artists
There were a couple of wonderfully insightful, tender and thought-provoking moments in this book that kept me going through the times when it seemed to be a slew of name-dropping- referencing folks who I have no clue who they were. Yet, when those moments came- ahh... Worth reading if you are a major fan of Matisse, yet if you just want to learn some about him, perhaps a different book would be better.
Tema Merback
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A most fascinating biography of the life of Matisse and his origins. Spurling's research is remarkable, her access unlimited. We witness the birth of a man who would crash through the doors of what is acceptable which resulted in a new language of art. His relationship with other painters including his nemesis Picasso is masterfully displayed. A must read for any and all who love the history of art.
Jun 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now I know why Matisse was an absolute genius. He took color and nude girls (unfortunately he never slept with them -- one model was so beautiful the other poor, totured artists called her The Sunset) and turned them into something beyond the beyond. He is still ignored in Paris. When I visited the Musee D'Orsay last year, Matisse was absent. Many French artists think he is a mere colorist. In my opinion, his work transcends not only the time it was made, but our time as well.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is excellent writing and research. But one feels sad for Matisse reading this book -- so much struggling and hardship in his painting and so many health issues in his family. I thought art making was all spontaneous and fun, but definitely not the case with him!(less)
Jan 24, 2013 01:00PM · delete
Les Dangerfield
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent biography, which won the Whitbread prize for non fiction in the year it was published. You almost feel you know the artist personally by the end of the book. He was a man of huge commitment to his work and of integrity in his dealings with others. On a detail, it was also interesting to read the account of what happened to him and his family during the two world wars.
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finish the VOLUMINOUS book, but more than half way. I very much enjoyed the art criticisms surrounding various pieces by Matisse. This is THE art historians books however with every detail of Matisse's life (and those close to him) documented. Just too much for me. There are just too many other things I want to read!
Dec 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has some of the material the family released to Spurling prior to the opening of the archives next year. Although one reviewer (a man whose name I don't remember) felt the pace rushed after Mme Matisse is off the scene, I didn't have that sense. Beautifully written and gives the attentive reader as much as the Psalms on which to meditate.
Rob Woodard
Apr 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second volumes of Matisse's life. For some reason I liked this one better the first volume; it seems to get deeper into the artist's personality and art than its predecessor. However, looking back, I may have underrated volume one--for both of these are good books and probably a must for Matisse admirers.
Tema Merback
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An in depth biography of the life of Matisse. Spurling leaves no stone unturned. She completely unmasks the genius and his tumultuous struggles to define a new window and perspective of art. I loved this book.
Lynne Harkes
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love Love Love this book!! It captures so much angst of the artist..something I can closely identify with as well as the notion that regardless of audience or of art world must paint your truth.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book would have received more stars from me except for some failings that seemed to be along the 'academic' lines. The style becomes wooden in places. The book content: more stars. The card file: fewer stars.
Susan Jaques
For lovers of Henri Matisse, this excellent biography offers insights into his career, artistry, and relationships -- including his wife, daughter, and models/muses.
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-history
An amazing book. It took me ages to finsish as I wanted to soak in and remember each little detail.
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hard going at times, with a plethora of details about his domestic life, but this book (and its preceding volume) provides a fascinating insight into one of the most iconic and creatively courageous artists of the modern era.
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Hilary Spurling, CBE, FRSL (born 1940) is a British writer, known as a journalist and biographer. She won the Whitbread Prize for the second volume of her biography of Henri Matisse in January 2006. Burying The Bones: Pearl Buck in China was published in March 2010.
She is married to playwright John Spurling, and has three children (Amy, Nathaniel and Gilbert) and two grandchildren.

Other books in the series

Matisse (2 books)
  • The Unknown Matisse, 1869-1908