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Emily Dickinson & Henri Matisse

Poetry: Emily Dickinson

Art: Henri Matisse

Hope is the thing with Feathers

by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

***

Emily Dickinson: 'Hope is the Thing with Feathers' from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University press, Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Henri Matisse: Polynesia, The Sky, signed screenprint, 1946.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was a reclusive American poet. Unrecognized in her own time, Dickinson is known posthumously for her innovative use of form and syntax. Dickinson left school as a teenager, eventually living a reclusive life on the family homestead. There, she secretly created bundles of poetry and wrote hundreds of letters. Due to a discovery by sister Lavinia, Dickinson's remarkable work was published after her death — on May 15, 1886, in Amherst — and she is now considered one of the towering figures of American literature.

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was a French artist, known for both his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso, as one of the artists who best helped to define the revolutionary developments in the visual arts throughout the opening decades of the twentieth century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. The intense colorism of the works he painted between 1900 and 1905 brought him notoriety as one of the Fauves (wild beasts). Many of his finest works were created in the decade or so after 1906, when he developed a rigorous style that emphasized flattened forms and decorative pattern. In 1917 he relocated to a suburb of Nice on the French Riviera, and the more relaxed style of his work during the 1920s gained him critical acclaim as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting. After 1930 he adopted a bolder simplification of form. When ill health in his final years prevented him from painting, he created an important body of work in the medium of cut paper collage. His mastery of the expressive language of colour and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.