Press Release

Matisse Picasso

Matisse Picasso: Press related to past exhibition.

Tate Modern  Level 4
11 May – 18 August 2002

Matisse and Picasso are the acknowledged twin giants of modern art, between them having originated many of the most significant innovations of twentieth-century painting and sculpture. Now a major exhibition will explore their relationship, which is revealed as much closer and more complex than has been thought. In spite of their initial rivalry, each came to acknowledge the other as his only true equal. In old age they became increasingly close personally, and increasingly important to each other artistically.

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. As a result Matisse Picasso, which will be shown in all three cities, starting in London, will be exceptionally rich in major masterpieces by both artists that have never before been brought together. The exhibition focuses primarily on painting but there will also be sculptures interspersed throughout, and a section dedicated to works on paper.

The two artists are seen together in over thirty groupings of works revealing the affinities, but also sometimes the extreme contrasts, between them. The works shown 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’.

From 1906 to 1917 there was open rivalry between the artists. This was a time of intense innovation, when between them they produced some of greatest art of the twentieth century. This period will form the densest part of the exhibition. Among the revelatory pairings are Picasso’s monumental Boy Leading a Horse of 1906 and Matisse’s Le Luxe 1 of 1907; Matisse’s celebrated Blue Nude and Picasso’s relatively little known, aggressively primitivist Nude with Raised Arms, both of 1907; and, in a stunning sequence of paintings of women, Matisse’s great portrait of his wife of 1913 and Picasso’s majestic Woman with a Fan of 1908. Other sections are devoted to still life and landscape. A key section shows Matisse responding to synthetic Cubism in his Moroccans and Piano Lesson, both of 1916. Picasso in turn responded to Matisse’s interpretation of Cubism by producing a new, more decorative Cubism of his own, as for example, in Three Musicians of 1921.

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 sheer fame, and their commitment to art based in reality, drew them together once again.

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. In a dramatic climax, the final section of the exhibition will concentrate 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.

The exhibition is the joint creation of 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. In addition there will be important and rare loans from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, noted for its rich holdings of Matisse and Picasso, as well as from the Statens Museum in Copenhagen, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, USA, as well as a number of private collectors. The families of the two artists have been truly supportive of the exhibition.

John Golding, Painter and Art Historian, London
Elizabeth Cowling, Senior Lecturer, Department of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh
Anne Baldassari, Curator, Musée Picasso, Paris,
Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Deputy Director, Musée nationale d’art moderne, Paris
Kirk Varnedoe, Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art,
New York
John Elderfield, Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Exhibition Dates
Tate Modern, London: 11 May - 18 August 2002
Grand Palais, Paris: 24 September 2002 - 6 January 2003
The Museum of Modern Art, New York: 12 February 2003 - 20 May 2003

The fully illustrated catalogue has an introductory essay by John Golding followed by essays by the six curators introducing the thirty-three groups of work. There is also a substantial chronology documenting the artists’ personal and artistic relationship.

Transport to Tate Modern
Underground: Southwark (Jubilee Line); Blackfriars (District & Circle Line); London Bridge (Northern Line, Jubilee Line)
Buses: 45, 63, 100, 381, 344
British Rail: Blackfriars and London Bridge
Parking: severely restricted; Coach drop-off point on Southwark Street