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Chasing Matisse


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In Morgan's (If These Walls Had Ears) account of a year abroad in France, he and his wife, Beth, leave their home in Little Rock, AR, to follow the trail of renowned Fauvist painter Henri Matisse. Starting in the northern region of Picardie, they travel on to Paris, Brittany, Collioure, Provence, and eventually Morocco. Along the way, Morgan mixes his own impressions of the cities where Matisse lived or visited with the anecdotes and stories of the struggling young Matisse himself. Throughout, Morgan is inspired by Matisse's courage in pursuing his art, his interpretations of color, and a life spent seeking beauty. Many artists and writers have penned accounts of discovering France and the ensuing culture shock: think Peter Mayle's charming depiction of his move to the south of France in A Year in Provence-a contemporary classic-or Adam Gopnick's tale of his love affair with the City of Light in Paris to the Moon. Morgan's travelog, alas, cannot be placed on the same shelf with these tales of expatriation, as it lacks their more accomplished humor and charm. For comprehensive travel collections only.-Matthew Loving, New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Morgan and his wife leave their middle-aged Arkansas lives behind to move to France and follow in the footsteps of the painter Henri Matisse, the author's hero. Part travelogue, part biography and part memoir, the book chronicles the couple's journey as they travel from Paris to such distant destinations as Corsica, Morocco and Nice, all the while eating good food, drinking fine wine and staying in luxury accommodations. Morgan, who depicted his coast-to-coast road trip in 1999's The Distance to the Moon, also sketches and paints interiors, landscapes and people as they go. But his drawings, included in the text, appear amateurish when coupled with his unoriginal musings ("artists are by nature and necessity self-centered, if not outright narcissistic") and his need to compare himself to his subject ("While I painted my offbeat [Christmas] ornaments, I thought of Matisse's struggle in 1892 following his first failure to qualify for the Ecole des Beaux Arts"). The book's strength lies in Morgan's ability to incorporate secondary sources to enliven and enrich the narrative, such as biographies of Matisse by Hilary Spurling and John Elderfield. In the end, though, Morgan's journey to "chase" Matisse is too personal; readers who admire the artist and hope to understand him with greater depth and sensitivity won't be satisfied by this effort. 28 illus. Agents, Michelle Tessler and Michael Carlisle. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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