Matisse Picasso is the hot ticket of the summer

Story by Jack Foley

FORGET body parts and fleshy controversy, the hottest art ticket this summer looks set to be the new Matisse Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern, which can be seen until August 18.

The exhibition opened on Saturday (May 11, 2002) and attracted a colossal 4,823 visitors (at £10 a ticket), while 4,307 poured through the turnstiles on Sunday.

The show brings together major masterpieces by the two giants of modern art as, between them, Matisse and Picasso originated many of the most significant developments of 20th-Century painting and sculpture.

Through a series of over 30 groupings of paintings and sculpture, the exhibition gives fans the opportunity to compare and contrast Matisse's expressive use of colour and line alongside Picasso's stylistic virtuosity.

Enthusiasts can trace the artists' relationship from its beginnings in Paris in 1906, when they first met regularly in the studio of the collectors Gertrude and Leo Stein, to the period after Matisse's death in 1954, when Picasso paid tribute to him in his work, both directly and indirectly. In spite of their initial rivalry, the exhibition will reveal how each artist came to acknowledge the other as his only true equal.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Tate, the Réunion des musées nationaux/Musée Picasso with the Musée national d'art moderne/Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Matisse Picasso, Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1. Sun-Thurs 10.15am-6pm. Fri and Sat 10.15am-10pm.
Admission £10. Until 18 August.


Matisse and Picasso are the acknowledged twin giants of modern art. In spite of their initial rivalry, over the years each came to acknowledge the other as his only true equal, and in old age they became increasingly close personally, and increasingly important to each other artistically.

The works shown at the exhibition have been carefully selected to be comparable in both scale and quality. The artists’ relationship is traced from its beginnings in Paris in 1906, when they first began to meet regularly in the studio of Gertrude and Leo Stein.

After Matisse’s death in 1954 Picasso paid tribute to him in his work, both directly and indirectly. Of his series of variations after Delacroix’s Women of Algiers, painted in 1955, he said 'when Matisse died he left his odalisques to me as a legacy'.

However, it is the period from 1906 to 1917, when the two artists' open rivalry and intense innovation was at its peak, that forms the densest part of the exhibition.

Among the revealing and exciting pairings are Picasso’s monumental Boy Leading a Horse of 1906 and Matisse’s Le Luxe 1 of 1907 (Le Luxe I (1907), oil on canvas, from Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Photo: CNAC-GP/MNAM, Paris © Succession H. Matisse is pictured above).

There is also Matisse’s celebrated Blue Nude and Picasso’s relatively little known, aggressively primitivist Nude with Raised Arms, both of 1907; as well as a sequence of paintings of women. Other sections are devoted to still life and landscape, while a key section shows Matisse responding to synthetic Cubism in his Moroccans and Piano Lesson, both of 1916.

In 1917, Matisse moved from Paris to Nice, and the two artists grew apart as Picasso became increasingly involved with the Surrealists. Yet they continued to study each other’s work and during the 1930s their commitment to art based in reality, drew them together once again.

However, during the Second World War, Matisse was isolated in Nice, while Picasso remained in difficult circumstances in occupied Paris. But they managed to exchange works and increasingly drew support from one another.

After the war Picasso moved to the South of France and their relationship entered its final and closest phase, reflected in the section featuring Matisse’s Large Red Interior 1948 and Picasso’s The Studio at Cannes 1955.

The final section of the exhibition concentrates on the acrobatic swimmers, dancers and nudes that both produced throughout their careers, and will reveal the remarkable cross-over between Picasso’s late sculptures, which became increasingly flat and pictorial, and Matisse’s great late cut-out paper collages.

(Part of the above text is taken from the official Matisse and Picasso website, which can be accessed by clicking on the link below).

Click here for the Tate Modern website
Click here for the Matisse Picasso website

Elija-Liisa Ahtila at Tate Modern. Click here...