After the Second World War Picasso became a regular visitor to Matisse in the South of France, and their relationship entered its final and closest phase. The focus here, and in the rooms that follow, is on this last decade and on Picasso’s reaction to the death of Matisse, in 1954, at the age of 84.
Soon after Matisse’s death, Picasso paid homage in a series of works that took typically Matissean subjects. The studio interior was one of these. The two ‘Red Interior’ paintings by Matisse reveal his mastery of the genre. Picasso’s variations on the theme include Studio at ‘La Californie’ 1955, a painting which would be classic Matisse, had not all colour been drained from the scene. Instead, Picasso creates a studio in mourning: the artist’s palette is set aside, the canvas is left blank, even the small sculpture on the turntable appears downcast.
Only weeks after Matisse’s death, Picasso had begun work on another group of paintings taking the odalisque as his subject. After a visitor to his studio pointed out the connection, Picasso replied: ‘When Matisse died, he left his odalisques to me as a legacy’. In Women of Algiers, after Delacoix 1955, the vivid hues and decorative profusion unquestionably speak of Matisse. Its direct source is Delacroix’s famous Orientalist painting of the same title, exemplifying the fact that the intimacy between the two artists was often mediated by a third.
Two other works paired in this room, Matisse’s Violinist at the Window 1918 and Picasso’s The Shadow 1953 can be read as self-portraits, painted at moments of crisis in the artists ‘lives. Matisse pictures himself playing the violin before a window. Approaching 50, he was on the edge of a major shift in his art and uncertain how the market would respond. The Shadow, painted when Picasso was 72, may relate to strained relations with his partner Françoise, who had recently left him, taking their children with her. Both works show the painter not painting, but practising another art: for Matisse making music, for Picasso making love.