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Snippet of ArtCurious Podcast: Episode #39: Rivals- Picasso vs. Matisse (Season 3, Episode 8)

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Last Played: December 25, 2021
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Where do you fall on the Picasso vs Matisse debate as to who the father of modern art is? Listen to this brief history of the two artists to see where you stand.
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art historians like to debate a lot of things. It's what we dio. And one of the topics that gets argued about most frequently is this. Who is the quote unquote father of modern art? Sexism aside, because how often do you hear someone asking about the identity of the mother of modern art? There are a few different names that you can throw out personally. I like to start in the mid 19th century with Manet and Corbet as the prime candidates, like we mentioned briefly in our last episode while others move forward and present. Paul season is the rightful standard bearer. But if you are thinking of modernism as 1/20 century thing, primarily then many will throw out one name and one name on Lee Pablo Picasso, Picasso, that crazy, bald Spanish guy who loves striped shirts and made paintings where people's body parts are all mixed up. That's what you know, at the very least, if you know art even just a little bit. But there's justice, fervent, a fan base for only Matisse as the father of modern art. That bearded savant who's concepts of color paved the way for artists decades after many passionate lovers of modern art will fall to one side or the other of the Picasso versus Matisse debate. They will claim that Picasso's Guernica is the greatest work that they have ever seen, or that Matisse's woman with hat changed their notion of what a portrait could be. It's funny, but we almost feel like we're being forced to take sides like you're not allowed to find both of them equally influential, though, of course, they both are one or the other, but not both of them. Which is a shame, really, because Picasso owed much to Matisse and vice versa, and they share as many similarities as they do differences. Pablo Picasso is the younger of the pair, the on font Terry, who arrived on the art scene with a giant splash. He was born in 18 81 in the Spanish town of Malaga to a father who was himself an artist. So Picasso, of course, had a leg up in the art world There. Early on, he was considered to be a child prodigy whose art training naturally began as a child at the hands of his father, who always proclaimed that his son's first word was lapis or pencil. In 18 95 the Picasso family moved to Barcelona largely toe offer the teenage Pablo a better education and more opportunities for his budding art career. His father got a job at the School of Fine Arts, and that connection allowed Picasso the chance to complete the entrance exam for enrollment. Normally, such a process took students a month to complete, but Picasso took only one week to finish it at the age of just 13. It should come as no surprise that he was quickly admitted to the school, and by the age of 19, Picasso was copying the works of Spanish masters like Goya and El Greco in museums across the country, including the great Prato in Madrid. However, it wasn't those artists of his home country who made the greatest impression on his burgeoning, unique style. The men who influenced him most were Paul Cezanne, the great post Impressionist and angry Russo, whose so called primitive painting style was like catnip to the young Picasso. Picasso, by the way, even got in on that whole father of modernism debate when he said later, quote, My one and only master Cezanne was like the father to us all rule breakers themselves. Cezanne and Russo were headed in their own ways towards what would become known as highlights of Cubism, the flattening of the picture plane, the abstraction of objects and individuals down to basic geometrical forms and a flat and a fascinating, angular approach. But like Rousseau and Cezanne before him, Picasso was finding it difficult. Among the formal art settings of Barcelona Toe have his work accepted and admired. And so he went to where his great heroes had lived and worked, And he moved to Paris in 1900 to pursue a new path, which he made official when he permanently moved to the capital in 1904 By the time Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris, there was another painter who had begun pursuing a new career path there with a similar intention. Angry Matisse was born on December 31st, 18 69 and look at Toa in the Picardy region of France. Unlike Pablo Picasso, though, Matisse had no familial connection to the arts, and it was, in fact, far from his young mind, and he intended to become a lawyer all the way into his twenties in 18 80 Matisse moved from Lucca toe to Paris specifically to get a head start on his legal career. And while he was there, he decided that he needed a little diversion, something fun to break up his study of dry law texts. So he began to sit in on drawing classes at a nearby school, and he began to fall in love with it. By 18 91 he abandoned his plans and studies for illegal career to pursue his new passion for painting full time. While it may be hard to believe now, given the radical and avant garde work Matisse remains famous for, he received strenuous, rather formal art training at fairly traditional conservative institutions like the Academie Julian or the A Cold a bazaar. After that point, he received additional training and apprenticeship in the studio of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, with whom he worked until 18 99. There he was known as a diligent, focused and meticulous worker, and that hard work and attention to detail really paid off. By the age of 30 Matisse began to show his works within the Salon Society of Paris, as well as making the acquaintance of other up and coming artists like Paul Gauguin. Inspired by these connections and the optimistic responses artwork garnered, he was ready to make something new. Bold pieces focused mainly on the use and manipulation of color through which he could make a splash about this, Matisse would later say, quote color became sticks of dynamite. Such adherents in pursuit of color caused Matisse to be given the title of the de facto leader of the phobes, or Wild Beasts, a group of artists deemed nuts for their use of brutal or wild colors. Matisse and Picasso first came in contact with each other through their art. They were both exhibited together in a 1902 exhibition at a small gallery in Paris, but they apparently never met. They finally came together in person, thanks to the helping hand of the famous writer and art collector Gertrude Stein, a close friend to both artists. Gertrude Stein could never really have predicted that her simple invitation to these men would spark a rivalry between two powerhouse artists of the 20th century. At the time, the connection was fairly casual. Stein, alongside her brother Leo, was a fanatic patron of the arts dare we say, Patron of the Arts. And together, the Stein's purchased numerous works by both Matisse and Picasso separately in the way that you do when you really enjoy the company and creativity of two different people. Gertrude Stein really wanted Matisse and Picasso to meet, to get to know each other and really even become friends themselves. So in 1906 the science took Matisse on a visit to Picasso's studio for an introduction and then began inviting both artists together to their weekly salons. And it was there at the Stein residents that a rivalry instead of a friendship took hold between a fiery young Spanish upstart and an older, established French painter. The fact that the Stein supported and purchased works by both Picasso and Matisse made for a constant battle between the two artists, as each hope to gain more favor with the collectors than the other. Various records exist show how critical each artist could get with one another. For example, after the Stein spot, Matisse's important Blue nude in 1907 an American friend of Gertrude's, the writer Walter Park, admired it openly. At one of the salon evenings, Picasso was right there next to him. So Pack asked for his opinion on the piece. According to Park, the conversation went as follows. Quote. Does that interest you? Asked Picasso. I said Yes, in a way, but I don't understand what he's thinking. Neither do I, said Picasso. If he wants to make a woman, let him make a woman. If he wants to make a design, let him make a design. This is between the two. So not nearly as snippy as you might expect these two artists to be towards or about each other. But still, Picasso didn't have anything truly nice to say about the Blue Nude. And it was because of two things. One, the Stein's really liked it. And so it was possible that he felt a little jealous. And two. He was possibly also a little afraid that Matisse's innovative use of color and form might overtake his own Cubist experiments with shape and space. Ultimately, each artist opposed the other style of painting because they were fundamentally different approaches. What's interesting about the rivalry between Matisse and Picasso is that neither artist was necessarily trying to outdo the other at their own game or in their own style. No, it was actually that both believed firmly that their chosen style was better or more skillful at achieving a truly modern art aesthetic, as if there could or should only be one type or style of modern art. Which is why the Parisian art scene and also the smaller, up and coming New York art scene were quite taken with both Matisse and Picasso at the same time, just for different reasons.
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