Books About Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse ushered in a bold new style of art during the early 20th century. His use of vibrant colors, broad strokes, and paper cut-outs brought about strong emotions during his lifetime, and his art still fascinates people today. We encourage you to use the books on this list to introduce your children to Matisse’s passion for art and expression.

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors Jane O’Connor

Written in the style of a child’s research report, this book provides a great introduction to Matisse and his work. It presents an engaging biography of Matisse with quotes, pictures, and reprints of his most famous paintings. The illustrations are eye-catching and a little silly. Early elementary kids are sure to enjoy it.

How the Snail Found Its Colors: The Art of Matisse Haneul Ddang and Jeong-yi Kee

A story about a snail searching for colors for his shell is the perfect metaphor for Matisse searching for the right colors and shapes for his art. The story explains color, emotions, and beauty in a way that elementary kids will easily understand. Plus, the paper cut-out illustrations in this book creatively mesh with Matisse’s style. After reading this one, look up Matisse’s painting, The Sail, with your children!

Magical Day with Matisse Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober

This board book is ideal for teaching little ones about the paintings of Henri Matisse. It features 10 of his masterpieces alongside lyrical text. The text is brief though, so art is the clear focus of this book. The magic is in the art and in your children’s imagination!

Blue and Other Colors with Henri Matisse Meagan Bennett

Teach your child the colors with this art-focused board book. The format is simple. Each page features a piece from Henri Matisse with the names of the colors you see. The final page offers a brief biography. This book provides a non-intimidating way to introduce little ones to Matisse’s vibrant paintings and collages.

Henri’s Scissors Jeanette Winter

Explore Matisse’s creative process with this biographical picture book. This one focuses on his work with paper cut-outs later in life. Rich colors and a gentle story fill the pages. Quotes from Matisse are also featured. It’s a perfect bedtime book to read to early elementary kids.

Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse Marjorie Blain Parker

This book presents the contrast between Matisse’s dreary reality and his vivid dreams. His daily life as a child is drawn in black and white, while the ideas he has in his mind are pictured with bright colors. The illustrations in this book are reminiscent of Matisse’s artistic style and definitely add depth to the biography. The overall message is one that children of any age can appreciate: never give up on your dreams!

Meet the Artist: Henri Matisse Patricia Geis

This hardcover book provides an interactive way to introduce upper elementary kids to Matisse’s life and inspiration. Pop-ups on every page feature Matisse’s art and quotes. Detailed text tells about various stages of Matisse’s life and describes his numerous artistic styles. This book is fun and extremely well designed.

The Mermaid and the Parakeet: A Children’s Book Inspired by Henri Matisse Veronique Massenot

This book is inspired by one of Matisse’s paintings that shares the same name. The story follows a mermaid who is stranded in a tree but needs to get back to the water. The parakeet becomes her unlikely friend. Each page features bright collage illustrations that incorporate elements of Matisse’s painting. A bit of biographical information is included, too. It’s a story that early elementary children are sure to enjoy.

Matisse’s Garden Samantha Friedman

In this book, you’ll see how Matisse got started with his paper cut-outs. As the story goes, his first piece was a simple white bird cut-out. This book features eight of Matisse’s paper cut-outs. The illustrations are colorful and inviting for kids. They’ll see how Matisse’s imagination and experimentation led him to create a fantastic art form! Read it with early elementary kids.

Matisse: Dance for Joy Susan Goldman Rubin

Little ones are encouraged to get up and move as they read this book! Each page features one of Matisse’s cut-paper masterpieces and simple text focused on movement. Birds are swooping and ponies are prancing. It’s a good pick for young children with short attention spans. They’ll enjoy staying active as they look at the art.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs MoMA

Look at 150 pieces of cut-out art from Matisse as you page through this beautiful book. This one digs deep into Matisse’s methods, materials, and decorative strategies. Five essays are included to describe how his artistic style evolved throughout the years. This book is great to have around as a visual for elementary kids. Older children may enjoy paging through and reading it for longer periods of time.

A Bird or Two: A Story About Henri Matisse Bijou Le Tord

Rich colors and lyrical text make this book a must-have for children. The story focuses on Matisse’s time in Nice, France. Optimism, joy, and inspiration are the main themes. The watercolor illustrations offer hints of Matisse’s style, but they’re beautiful in their own right. It’s a gentle book that’s perfect for elementary kids.

Matisse: The King of Color Laurence Anholt

This book tells the delightful story of friendship between Matisse and his visiting nurse, Monique. She nurses him back to health and, when he’s well again, he helps her raise money for a chapel in Vence, France. It’s a cheerful book that shows several pieces of Matisse’s artwork. The layout is creative and the illustrations are sure to engage your children. Read it with elementary-aged kids.

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse Patricia MacLachlan

It’s well known that Matisse’s mother gave him his first set of paints. This creative picture book focuses on the joy and color she brought into his life. Matisse isn’t mentioned by name in the story. Instead, the series of pages points to things that inspired Matisse and then connects those moments to his actual artwork. The text is simple, but the story is incredibly interesting. It’s a great read-aloud for elementary kids.

Henri Matisse: Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists Mike Venezia

This book is a non-traditional biography. It features age-appropriate text alongside illustrated cartoons and full-color reproductions of Matisse’s artwork. Kids will laugh at the illustrations and jokes, but they will be learning about Matisse’s life on every page. The book explains his artistic style and details major events in his life. Read this one alongside your elementary-aged children.

Meet Matisse Jean-Vincent Senac

Older children will enjoy this exploration of Matisse’s work with cut paper. The text describes Matisse’s style in detail, and the contemporary illustrations add to the story of inspiration and courage. Several quotes from Matisse are also included. This is a great pick for children who already have a bit of background knowledge about Matisse.

newsletter icon Never miss a beat. Subscribe
to our
* indicates required