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Matisse: From Color to Architecture

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review - By René Percheron and Christian Brouder.Abrams, 2004. 382pp. £75

The Chapel of the Rosary at Vence in the south of France, with its stained-glass windows by Henri Matisse, is quite well-known. Much less so is the playroom of a nursery school at Le Cateau-Cambrésis. There, Matisse was able to realise a version of his original designs for the Vence chapel, which he had had to jettison - for complicated reasons that are explained in René Percheron and Christian Brouder's book. It is a glazed wall, predominantly red, yellow and blue, that glows, then blazes, as the light outside gets stronger. Matisse wanted the playroom to have white walls and red floor tiles, to harmonise with the green outside its other (clear glass) window, but that never happened. The authors examine Matisse's ventures into architecture in great detail, but what makes this book so desirable is the way they put them in the context of his paintings, with apt high-quality reproductions from all periods of his career.

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