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Matisse Picasso

About this project

This digital project has been designed for visually impaired people and aims to explore some of the ideas, innovations and working methods of Matisse and Picasso, two of the twentieth century’s most influential artists.

This project complemented the Matisse Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern in 2002, but was also intended to be a lasting resource supporting independent study and visits to Tate once the exhibition had closed.

Matisse and Picasso

Matisse and Picasso are two of the twentieth century’s most influential artists. Their work was innovative because they believed that art was about more than just imitating what the eye sees of the world at any given moment. Their art uses forms of perception that are more abstract and personal such as memory, emotion and experience.

They overturned artistic traditions that had held sway in the West for five hundred years. Yet despite showing the way for later artists whose work would be purely abstract, Matisse and Picasso never abandoned subject matter entirely. No matter how distorted or confusing their work appears to be, it always represents things familiar to us like an apple, a goldfish or the human figure.

Their long and prolific careers encompassed painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, glass and theatre design. They drew inspiration from artists of the past, from art of different cultures, from the modern world around them and, importantly, from each other. Each saw the other as their only artistic rival and equal. Picasso said that ‘All things considered, there is only Matisse’ while Matisse said ‘Only one person has the right to criticise me…Picasso’.

Henri Matisse

Matisse was born in northern France in 1869 and died in 1954. He initially studied law before begining a career as a painter in 1891. His art developed from 1905 via Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism and Fauvism, a movment that he led. In 1908 he wrote 'Notes of a Painter' which set out his ideas about art. He travelled to Morocco in 1911 and 1913 before settling in the South of France. His mature style involved saturated colours, and strong, decorative over-all patterning influenced by his admiration for Persian art. In his final years following illness that left him bedridden, he developed his paper cutout technique. His career included designing stage sets in 1917 for Stravinsky's 'Le Chant du Rossignol', illustrations for Mallarmé's 'Poésies' and the decoration for the chapel of Notre-Dame du Rosaire in Vence, including the stained glass windows between 1949-1951.

"The importance of an artist is to be measured by the number of new signs he has introduced into the language of art." - Matisse

Pablo Picasso

Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain in 1881. He was a child prodigy and was admitted to the Barcelona Academy of Fine Arts aged fourteen. He moved to France in 1904 where he remained until his death. His early career was based in Paris. His admiration for Cézanne, Iberian sculpture and African art led to one of his most celebrated works, 'Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon' (1907). With Braque he developed Cubism up until World War I. His subsequent career embraced Neo-Classicism and Surrealism and a continued experimentation with ideas rooted in Cubism and materials such as pottery. After 1946 spent much of his time in the south of France until his death in 1973.

"No one has ever looked at Matisse’s painting more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully then he." - Picasso