Henri Matisse

The French painter Henri Matisse depicted figures related to the novel’s Homeric allusions for a deluxe edition of Ulysses in 1935. He was not adept at reading English and gave up on tackling the monumental novel in translation. As an alternative, a friend loaned him a book-length study of the novel by Stuart Gilbert. Writing under Joyce’s supervision, Gilbert had emphasized the work’s correspondences to classical literature. The artist was also given a copy of the Random House circular How to Enjoy James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, which made use of Joyce's Schema. When the edition’s publisher, George Macy, was unable to see connections between Matisse’s first two prints and the novel, the painter curtly relayed through his son that Random House had explicitly stated,“Nausicaa = Gerty MacDowel” [sic]. Joyce consented to Matisse’s approach over the telephone, the sole direct contact that transpired between artist and author.

James Joyce (1882–1941)
Ulysses. Illustrated by Henri Matisse (1869–1954)
New York: Limited Editions Club, 1935
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018; PML 197805

Henri Matisse (1869–1954)
Preparatory drawing for Ulysses [the “Nausicaa” episode], 1934 Red chalk
The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation
© 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [permission not yet granted]