‘When it comes to drawing, nothing is better than the first sketch’ Picasso commented, contrasting his own impulsive style with Matisse’s painstaking process of successively revising and simplifying his graphic works. This room contains works belonging to three distinct periods.
Early in their careers, both artists regarded drawing as an essential tool, an aid to their experiments in painting. Matisse used it to re-establish the strong contours that threatened to disintegrate in paintings dominated by colour. For Picasso drawing was a way of testing radically different styles when developing his increasingly complex compositions.
1917-23 was a period of stylistic restlessness for Picasso. His detailed, illusionistic draughtsmanship was perhaps the most striking and consistent manifestation of his neo-classical manner. Matisse’s drawings, on the other hand, became more relaxed. While colour remained his primary concern, he viewed drawing as a means of recording his immediate sensations, making his sketches a sort of visual autobiography.
The latest works in this room concentrate on the theme of artist and model. This subject was the perfect vehicle for Picasso’s fascination with metamorphosis, in which the sitter’s body is transformed, taking on the properties of objects around it. It was also a way of musing on the complex emotions implicit within this intimate and sometimes erotic relationship. Matisse’s ink line drawings from 1935-7 explore the same theme, often using mirrors to introduce the controlling presence of the artist into his own sketch.