MATISSE & PICASSO - THE CURATORS INSIGHTS
We sat down and talked all things Matisse & Picasso with Simeran Maxwell, Curator of the Exhibition.
Why is the relationship between Matisse & Picasso so famous?
Relationships between artists are an interesting idea for an exhibition because they remind audiences that individual artists don’t work in a vacuum. However, the relationship that existed between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso is one of the most important of these. Together these two men changed modern art in unimaginable ways over the course of their 50-year relationship. And as audiences to Canberra will see, the rivalry—sometimes friendly, sometimes not—pushed both artists in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to fathom if the other hadn’t been there.
What makes this exhibition a must see this summer?
Not only does it showcase the work, across all mediums, of two of the art world’s superstars, it draws together paintings and sculpture from over 23 international public and private collections. In addition, the scale of this exhibition means that the National Gallery of Australia can display almost it’s entire world-class collection of prints, drawings and illustrated books. Many of which have not been exhibited before.
With more than 140 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and costumes making up the exhibition, where are the pieces coming from?
This exhibition has been many years in the making because the works which we have borrowed have been the gems in their current owners’ collections. Obtaining agreements to lend has required long request times and gentle and persistent coaxing from our director and curatorial staff. The works have come from across Europe and the US, South America and Australia, from both public and private collections. Some of the major lenders include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the UK’s Tate, and Museé Picasso in Paris. Borrowing from so many collections provides our audience with the best possible exhibition of works which brilliantly demonstrates how the two artists careers intersected for over 50 years. But the number of lenders also requires a lot of hand work on the part of our exhibition coordinator and loans registrars to juggle arrival times, installation schedules budgets and couriers. This show has above all been an incredible team effort.
What is Cubism and was it made famous by Picasso?
Cubism was Picasso’s response to the work of Post-Impressionist master Paul Cézanne. He broke down objects into their composite geometric forms, presenting a fractured image of his subjects. He did this with portraits, still life and even landscape. Picasso was one of the main leaders of Cubism and it was a movement which was particularly scorned by Matisse who disparagingly described it as an art of ‘little cubes’. While Matisse was pretty accurate in his visual assessment of Picasso’s technique, he soon began to appreciate the merit of what the young Spaniard was doing. You can see how Matisse subtly began to employ the idea of geometry in his work. It was never as overt at Picasso (who continued to break up his subjects into geometric forms throughout his career) but it is there when you look for it.