There Are Always Flowers for Those Who Want To See Them

Henri Matisse? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The innovative French artist Henri Matisse reportedly wrote:

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

This statement appears on countless pictures of floral arrangements, but I have been unable to find the source, and I am beginning to question its authenticity. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In the 1940s Henri Matisse underwent surgery that left him frequently bedridden. He experimented with a fresh artistic technique to produce colorful illustrations. He and his assistants used scissors to cut out forms from sheets of colored paper and pasted them onto a backing to create collages. In 1947 Matisse published “Jazz” which contained a collection of his recent artworks together with his written thoughts including the following. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Heureux ceux qui chantent de tout leur cœur, dans la droiture de leur cœur.

Trouver la joie dans le ciel, dans les arbres, dan les fleurs. Il y a des fleurs partout pour qui veut bien les voir.

Here is one possible translation into English by Sophie Hawkes:

Happy are those who sing with all their heart, from the bottoms of their hearts.

To find joy in the sky, the trees, the flowers. There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

Matisse’s thoughts were handwritten, and the images were vivid as shown in the following two samples from the book:

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.




The 1947 book was a limited edition which over time became expensive and difficult to access. Decades after the original release, publisher George Braziller acquired the rights to create a popular edition. “The Philadelphia Inquirer” printed an article about Braziller’s effort in 1983 titled “One man’s struggle to make art by Matisse available to the public”. The review of the new edition reprinted an excerpt containing the English text given previously in this article. 2

In 1995 “Matisse on Art” edited by Jack D. Flam presented an alternative translation of Matisse’s words: 3

Happy are those who sing with all their heart, in the forthrightness of their heart.

Find joy in the sky, in the trees, in the flowers. There are flowers everywhere for those who want to see them.

In conclusion, Henri Matisse did write a statement in 1947 in French about the ubiquity of flowers. Two different English translations have been given here.

Image Notes: Self-portrait of Henri Matisse circa 1918 accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Painting “Vase with Two Handles” circa 1907 by Henri Matisse accessed via Wikiart.org. Two cropped, small, low-resolution images from Jazz by Henri Matisse showing part of an illustration and part of the text.

(Great thanks to Randolph Wagner whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1992, Jazz by Henri Matisse, Quote Page xxvi, 133, and 134, Text by Henri Matisse translated from the French by Sophie Hawkes, (Reprint of original 1947 edition), George Braziller, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1983 October 16, The Philadelphia Inquirer, One man’s struggle to make art by Matisse available to the public, Review by Edward J. Sozanski of Jazz by Henri Matisse, Section P: Books/Leisure, Start Page 1, Quote Page 7, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1995, Matisse on Art, Edited by Jack D. Flam, Revised Edition, Quote Page 174, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. (Google Books Preview)