Room 13 Room 13

‘In painting, things are signs: we used to say emblems before the First World War’, said Picasso. Symbols, emblems and metaphors frequently replace a more naturalistic depiction of objects in Picasso’s work. The painting Large Still Life on a Pedestal Table 1931, like the sculpture in this room, is a hidden portrait of his blonde lover Marie-Thérèse. She emerges amidst budding fruit and vegetable forms, and the curvaceous scroll of jugs and table legs. Matisse was also interested in the idea of the sign, when understood as reducing form to its essentials. In the gouache cut-outs shown here, he simplified his subject matter as far as possible. The forms in Vegetation c. 1951, for example, still register as fruit, trees, and leaves, but are liberated from naturalism, so that they also read as rhythmic patterning.