Even when the work of the two artists seems to be at its most oppositional, there are often intriguing connections to be made. Take the paintings of studio interiors shown here: The Studio, quai Saint-Michel 1916-17 by Matisse and Painter and Model 1928, by Picasso. Matisse paints the model Lorette, posing in the corner beyond the window. The easel suggests that the artist has temporarily left the room. In style the painting treads a tightrope between abstraction and naturalism. Picasso’s version is flagrantly anti-naturalistic - in fact he rarely worked from the posing model. What they do share is a preoccupation with the erotic implications of the artist/model relationship. If the artist is visibly absent in the Matisse, in the Picasso he is both present and absent: a painter with priapic brushes, and a watching shadow at the door.
At first glance Picasso’s sculpture Guitar 1924 and Matisse’s painting Interior with a Violin 1917-18 may seem to have little in common beyond the presence of a musical instrument. But on closer inspection similarities emerge in the way both artists manipulate space. Matisse opens windows towards us and pushes shutters outwards, revealing the space beyond, a motif that is developed throughout the painting. The projecting flaps and striped panels in the Picasso sculpture play a similar spatial game. The link between sculpture and painting is explored in many of their works, although Matisse never painted his sculptures, as Picasso often did.
Two other works in this room show the artists encroaching on each other’s territory. In Mandolin and Guitar 1924, Picasso infuses the canvas with Matissean colour; while in Still Life after Jan Davidsz de Heem’s ‘La Desserte’ 1915 Matisse takes a seventeenth-century Dutch painting and transforms it into angular Cubist geometry.