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Irma Kurtz looks at painter Matisse's complex relationship with poetry and words through his illustrations of various French poets.

Matisse often used other media for inspiration and he had a particularly close relationship with poetry - reciting it every morning before painting and thinking of it as a kind of oxygen, "just as when you leap out of bed you fill your lungs with fresh air".

Matisse didn't separate the act of painting with the act of producing a book and, throughout his career, he produced illustrations or etchings for many beautiful limited edition poetry books, such as 'Poesies' by Stephane Mallerme and Charles D'Orleans 'Poemes' and 'Florilége des Amours de Ronsard' - 16th century love poems which inspired Matisse's famous line drawings of women's faces.

By talking to his great grand daughter, Sophie Matisse (also a painter), biographer Hilary Spurling, poet and artist Pascale Petit and various Matisse experts, Irma looks at the relationship between poetry and Matisse, with location recording at his home in Nice.


Producer: Laura Parfitt
A White Pebble Media production for BBC Radio 4.
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