In Florilège des Amours de Ronsard, the ‘florilège’, or ‘bouquet’, refers to a compilation of love poems, or amours. Written by the “prince of poets” Pierre de Ronsard, a French poet from the 1500s, these poems have been gathered and curated into a beautiful anthology where each sonnet is itself a flower.
The publication was Matisse’s idea; he approached the publisher Albert Skira with the concept of the illustrated anthology in 1941. Skira was a bookseller-turned-publisher who also collaborated with artists such as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Skira and Matisse worked closely together on Florilège for seven years before the work was finally published in 1948. The Second World War, the Nazi occupation of Paris and Matisse’s ill health account for some of the delays with the project, however, the principal reason that the publication took seven years to complete was Matisse’s stubborn insistence on the project’s total perfection. Every detail of the publication was scrutinised by Matisse: from each subtle lithographic mark; to the exact tone of the ink; the paper choice which had to be changed at a last moment when it began yellowing; and to the lettering of the typography which also had to be changed when their original choice – a very rare, old Caslon typeface – had to be recast before they could complete the printing. Matisse refused to go to print with the publication of Florilège until he was entirely satisfied with every aspect of this special work.
Matisse threw himself into the illustration of Florilège, not only representing the imagery from Ronsard’s sonnets – embracing lovers, the female form and blossoming flowers – but also reflecting on his own iconography, artistic style and legacy. The portraits of women, dancing figures, couples embracing, cuckooing birds, flowers and leaves all fit undeniably into Matisse’s oeuvre, exuding a positive, love-soaked mood.
The Florilège des Amours de Ronsard collection of lithographs is about sensual love, sensuous lines and the sustaining and healing power of art. – Eames Fine Art
Published by Contemporary and Modern Print Exhibitions.(1997)