Suzanne Ruta
October 01, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Matisse: A Portrait

Current Status
In Season
Hayden Herrera

We gave it a B+

MATISSE: A PORTRAIT Hayden Herrera (Harcourt Brace, $29.95) Hayden Herrera’s previous biography was of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, whose life was so rich in stormy love affairs and courageous comebacks it made Madonna long to play her in the movies. Matisse’s life makes blander reading. A proper bourgeois from the north of France, he pursued adventure, passion, and color on canvas only. Worse yet, from a biographer’s viewpoint, he was ”the world’s most discreet man,” and his family (unlike Picasso’s, say) closed ranks to shield his memory. Still, between the lines of this guarded, impersonal account, we glimpse a tragic decades-long conflict between a self-absorbed egotistical genius and the self-sacrificing wife whose life he nearly destroyed. Perceptive comments on the paintings are undercut by the dearth of color reproductions. But the period photographs, spanning more than 60 years, are uniformly fascinating. B -Suzanne Ruta

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