The Norton Simon Museum
presents Matisses Amours: Illustrations of Pierre de Ronsards Love Poems, an exhibition featuring a selection of lithographs from Henri Matisses exceptional but rarely considered livre dartiste, titled Florilège des Amours de Ronsard or Anthology of Ronsards Love Poems. Some twenty-five pages, spreads and folios appear in the exhibition, most of which have never been on view at the Museum. These selections are from a rare copy of the volume, number eighteen of the twenty Hors Commerce (not for sale/out of sale) editions reserved for the artist, the publisher and others who collaborated on the project.
One of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Henri Matisse (18691954) created lyrical, decorative works in color and design that changed the course of art, and these characteristics resonate throughout his illustrated books. Indeed, the artist stated, I dont distinguish between the making of a book and a painting. Matisse began work on what would become the 128-page Florilège des Amours de Ronsard in 1941. This immense undertaking took seven years to complete, with the artist illustrating the text, selecting the poems (which he updated from their 16th-century French), conceiving the layout, choosing the typeface and even designing and decorating the cardboard box in which the volume was packed. What is more, the project was carried out during World War II and Frances occupation by Germany, during which time Matisses wife was imprisoned and his daughter was captured and tortured (and later saved from a concentration camp by an allied air raid).
Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), deemed the father of French lyric poetry and credited with facilitating the modernization of the French language, explored playfully erotic themes in poems that were exceedingly well-suited to the interests of the French painter. As a result, the lithographs feature many of Matisses en, flora between the painters sinuous renderings and Ronsards lyric verse, and this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view a work of considerable import from Matisses late career.
Matisses Amours: Illustrations of Pierre de Ronsards Love Poems is organized by Leah Lehmbeck, Assistant Curator at the Norton Simon Museum. A series of public programs accompanies the exhibition, including the musical performance Sound and Color: Henri Matisse and the Music of His Time with Polli Chambers-Salazar on Friday, March 20, at 7:00 p.m., and a 20-minute tour on Saturday, February 14, at 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.