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Henri Matisse
Image: Eames Fine Art

There’s a lovely little Matisse show in Bermondsey

See some of the twentieth-century master’s most delicate and charming prints up close

Chris Waywell

London’s major galleries and museums are reopening on May 17, but until then, art-starved Londoners have a great chance to check out the capital’s small independent galleries. Along with current shows by Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread, there’s a new show opening today at Eames Fine Art in Bermondsey by one of the true giants of twentieth-century art, Henri Matisse.

‘Florilège des Amours de Ronsard’ is a 1948 collection of lithograph prints by Matisse that he worked on for seven years, including during the occupation years of World War II. The lithographs were produced to accompany a book of sonnets by the sixteenth-century French lyric poet Pierre de Ronsard. Matisse was originally only meant to create 30 images to go with the texts, but ended up getting a bit carried away and making 126.

The delicate prints are full of joyful spring images – flowers, leaves, birds – plus a lot of nude ladies wreathed in foliage (‘Florilège des Amours’ translates as ‘bouquet of love’). It’s all très French and sensual, in a Middle Ages sort of way.

There was supposed to be a big Matisse show at the Pompidou Centre in Paris this spring, but that’s not happening now because of their lockdown, so this is a great chance for lovers of Our ’Enri to enjoy some rarely seen works up close. If you’re inexplicably minted, you can even buy them. And if you’re just preparing for the full-on culturegeddon of May 17, this is a lovely little warm-up.

‘Henri Matisse: Florilège des Amours de Ronsard’, Eames Fine Art, 58 Bermondsey St, SE1 3UD. Until May 9. Free.

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