Picasso and Matisse at Detroit Institute of Arts

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Hundreds of works on display by two giants of 20th-century art

  Almost all of the works by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Henri Matisse (1869–1954) in the DIA’s collection will be on display starting July 11.

Circus, Henri Matisse, 1943. Pochoir. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The exhibit includes more than 100 prints and drawings, including exceptional works such as Matisse’s 1919 drawing The Plumed Hat and Picasso’s 1939 gouache of The Bather by the Sea. Other highlights include Matisse’s famous series Jazz and Picasso’s etchings for the Dream and Lie of Franco, as well as many linoleum cuts by both artists.

“In the early years of the 20th century, these two seminal artists engaged in a fierce rivalry, each trying to out-do the other and be seen as the premier Modern artist of the time. Once established, they went their separate, equally prolific, ways but continued to watch one another’s development from afar, this time, more in the spirit of a mutual admiration shared by seasoned veterans,”said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director.

White Pigeon on Black Background, Pablo Picasso, 1947. Lithograph. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Picasso began creating art when he was seven years old, trained by his artist/art teacher father. By age 13 it was evident that his talent would surpass that of his father. When he was 19, after studying art in Spain, Picasso went to Paris and within a few years became a favorite of prominent collectors and established entrepreneurs. His early realistic paintings and prints known as his Blue and Rose Period were well regarded, but it was his fractured studies of form and space known as Cubism that revolutionized artists’ attitudes about perception and vision and vaulted Picasso to the pinnacles of achievement in modern art. His international influence, stature, and fame increased through the rest of his life as he worked through the major styles of each era.

Matisse, on the other hand, was 12 years Picasso’s senior and was born to a prosperous business family in northern France. He earned a law degree in Paris and was practicing back home as a court assistant when in his early 20’s he decided to change careers. He left for Paris to become an art student and by 1896 his work was in major Parisian exhibitions. His rise to prominence as a major artist was complete by 1905. Matisse’s lifework, while as broad as Picasso’s in exploring drawing, printmaking, painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, was far more focused as an intellectual study. Matisse’s interest with pattern dominated his career, whether abstractly in thinking about lines as shapes or in thinking about brilliantly colored shapes playing off each other. He constantly tried to refine his subjects into their elemental linear components, as in The Plumed Hat.

Still Life with Fruit and Flowers, Henri Matisse, 1947. Brush and ink. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In the early 1940s, when poor health affected his dexterity, Matisse turned to what he called “drawing with scissors,” in which he cut forms out of brightly colored paper and pinned them together. Some of these stood on their own as artworks, and others served as models for more elaborate projects.  One such project is Jazz, which consists of a book and album. Two hundred and seventy copies of the book and 100 copies of the album were created, resulting in a total of 7,400 prints. A team of printers worked for years to create stencil prints from the collages designed by Matisse. The sheer level of skill, control, and dedication required to create Jazz is one of the reasons it is among the greatest achievements in printmaking. The exhibition will display 17 of the 20 prints from the Jazz album.

Picasso and Matisse: The DIA’s Prints and Drawings will be on view July 11, 2012–January 6, 2013. The Museum hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for ages 6-17, and free for DIA members. For membership information call 313-833-7971. http://www.dia.org/calendar/event.aspx?id=3187&iid=

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