images from the special edition of Ulysses for which Henri Matisse provided illustrations in the 1930s. An American publisher had commissioned Matisse to provide some artwork for the text for $5,000 and Matisse came up with 26 full page drawings.
While the combo of Matisse and Joyce certainly sounds intriguing, I'm not particularly enamored of the result and neither was Joyce. The problem is that Matisse didn't bother to read Ulysses and instead drew up scenes from Homer's Odyssey.
I do really like the cover (shown on right) but the rest of it is unexciting.
In the mid-1930s when the Matisse-illustrated edition of the book was being put together, Joyce was hard at work finishing up writing Finnegans Wake which he been laboring on for almost 15 years. Fragments of the Wake (known as Work in Progress at that point since he kept the title secret until completion) had been appearing in magazines and even in individual book form during this time. Joyce encouraged his mentally unstable but artistically brilliant daughter Lucia to take a crack at making her own illustrations for one of the chapters of his enigmatic work and the results were actually quite good. Joyce much preferred her illustrations to the ones by Matisse and you can see why.
|Lucia Joyce's artwork for the Finnegans Wake fragment entitled "Storiella as She is Syung"
And last but definitely not least, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon wrote a lengthy, well-informed piece on "What to Make of Finnegans Wake?" in the latest issue of the NY Review of Books. It's a great piece, creatively written and he clearly knows his stuff when it comes to Joyce.
EDIT: They ended up putting the full piece online after all. Go ahead and read it HERE.