Visual Arts16 Nov 2010 08:41 am
“If I were not making the paintings I make, I would paint like Matisse.”
- Pablo Picasso.
“Only one person has the right to criticize me, and its’ Picasso.”
It could be called a rivalry, a dialogue, a chess game—Matisse himself once compared it to a boxing match. And yet, despite (and perhaps because of) their intense rivalry, the two titans also served as lifelong muses for each other work.
Paradoxically, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were not fast fans of each other’s oeuvre when they first saw it. However, they both picked up on each other’s “Je ne sais quoi,” and immediately recognized the power each had to challenge and stimulate the other.
If Matisse was regarded as the father of modern art at the dawn of the 20th century, Picasso was sleeping with the same muse. Picasso, the younger artist, was constantly trying to get Matisse’s attention by showing off, stealing from his work, and rudely parodying him. Matisse, envious of Picasso’s success, tried to ignore him until the 1930s when he needed Picasso’s influence to bring himself out of an artistic funk. After that they traded paintings, visits, and little notes. But they were too competitive to really be friends.
For the rest of their lives each would keep a keen eye on the other’s new work, provoking each other to paint the same subjects, sometimes even with the same title. However, after Matisse died in 1954, Picasso was alone, but not quite. “When Matisse died, he left me his odalisques as a legacy,” he proclaimed, and proceeded to dissect them in a series of his own paintings.
Picasso died in 1973, believing to the end, as he said, “All things considered, there is only Matisse.”
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