Art historian Jack Flam has written a new book about the relationship between Matisse and Picasso. It’s useful reading for any artist who has a close and competitive friend in the same business.
Matisse and Picasso were strikingly different both as artists and individuals. Matisse, older by eleven years, was prissy compared to the rascally Picasso. Picasso’s approach to art tended to be literary. His works were generally based on the imagination and centered on a particular idea. Matisse, on the other hand, developed his work from observation — the colour of things, patterns, graphic relationships. He was also easily distracted — he sometimes threw in everything that came his way. Picasso’s work was often pregnant with aggression — Matisse’s work was diffused with what he thought was “balance, purity and serenity.” At the same time they were both motivated and turned on by primitive art, Cezanne, women, and their own egos. Both artists avoided full abstraction yet built their art around a personal view of reality. Each borrowed both spirit and directions from the other while remaining true to his own artistic temperament.
One might conclude that while personalities may clash and aggravate, intelligent rivals learn to respect one another’s turf and relish one another’s success. They know there is enough to go around. They take the trouble to understand and protect both their unique and mutual sources. In their small worlds they are able to see the bigger picture and turn rivalry to advantage. While they may get on each other’s nerves, they know that tension, jealousy and anxiety are negative feelings that can eat at a creative soul.
Stellar connections can have the effect of driving creators toward even more uniqueness. Artists can be thankful when they are blessed with the gift of rivalry — it can be the basis for personal excellence and, in the long run, the makings of the best kinds of friends.
PS: “What made these two artists, Matisse and Picasso, so good — part of the answer is ‘each other.'” (Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow)
Esoterica: Matisse and Picasso: the Story of their Rivalry and Friendship, by Jack Flam, describes the effect of the nearby presence of stardom. Picasso, with his remarkable energy and appetite, takes on celebrity status. In front of Matisse he becomes the auteur of idiosyncratic art and lifestyle. Matisse, in the shadow perhaps, quietly opens the way to future art.
Matisse and Picasso at MOMA
by Leni Friedland, Mt. Sinai, NY, USA
I went to the show in N.Y. at the Museum Of Modern Art (temporary building in Queens, N.Y.). It was a comparison of both artists. Because the theme was comparison I think the show was forced and showed earlier works of both artists. This work was valid, but not the vibrant color work I personally love from both. It was interesting to note that Matisse tried to do the same things as Picasso, but seemed to have a more difficult time letting go of the “reality” of things. Picasso just let his creative imagination go wild.
Enough to go around
by Pamela Simpson, Connecticut, USA
My husband and I have met many artists in the three years we have been married. I have observed that many of the best have a very generous spirit, sharing information, even recommending us to dealers and events. They know that we are all individual artists that have a unique voice and we will build a unique audience. We are rivals in driving each other to be our unique best. They also know there is enough of an audience to go around.
Picasso a bully
Picasso was a bully. In him everything rode on featuring himself and getting his way. He showed no interest in the values of others including his own children, which, because of his unpleasant ways, came to suicide or at least little good. He is not a fair example of a sharing friendship.
by Anthony Kampwerth
America’s two party political system, with all of its flaws, is still working. The rivalry of liberal/conservative opinions keeps a balance that avoids a dictatorship that occurs in so many countries around the world. Unfortunately, we have a “Bully” president now who is doing heavy damage to American freedoms, including freedom of speech. Our only recourse is that election time will again roll around and changes can be made at that time.
I have a rival who is almost as successful as I am. He does quite good knockoffs of my work, undercuts my prices, and even tries to get into some of my galleries. I find it very difficult to be a friend to this guy. Everybody says he is slippery. A couple of my galleries have had the decency to prevent him from coming in and examining my work. Any thoughts? Please don’t use my name.
(RG note) Part of our job as human beings is to try to achieve understanding of problematic people. This includes tyrants, fools, thieves, bullies, religious fanatics and cloners. Be philosophic. Keep your own counsel and stay our own course. Everything passes. And keep A. Y. Jackson‘s remark in mind: “Those who follow are always behind.”
Blessings of friendship
by Joy Cooper, West Virginia, USA
I realized the blessing of friends who were “not like me” years ago. And now I’m blessed with artist friends, both close by and online, with all kinds of viewpoints who form a wonderful support system. What a different world this would be if we would actively celebrate our differences instead of using them for division! Now there’s a resolution for us all.
by Teri Walker Thomas, Sherwood, Oregon, USA
After reading your letter today I wanted to comment on how I think Picasso is very over-rated. His so-called portraits of women are childish, garish, and ugly which expresses his disrespect for women, being an alcoholic, womanizer, woman-beater. He and many others have given people the stereotyped stigma that artists are immoral, alcoholic, self-centered egomaniacs. Van Gogh, was addicted to absinthe. My high school art teacher explained that this drink destroys the mind. Gauguin left his family, a banking career, to go to Tahiti and paint naked, naive, native girls. Until that image is changed I wonder how seriously artists will be taken?
by Lennart Osterlind
My two favorite artists are Picasso and Matisse. I had the fortune to visit Paris and the Museum of Picasso as well as Museum d’Orsay. I went back many times to be able to digest It all. It’s good when you can find someone to share what they did over the years. I just finished teaching drawing to some of my art friends. Friends are very gratifying.
Rare and precious
by Annette Waterbeek
It is great fun to bounce ideas…go on an inspiration hunt…a companion for the early morning outings to get a sense of place… a travel companion. To have debates on what one thinks is ART. To energize…to give you a butt kick when needed…to plant you back on earth. The hard part is to find the true art friends who can uphold and respect each other’s uniqueness. Ones with integrity who can complement each other’s personalities. A trust between — to stay unique and not to steal, copy or belittle. Yes, rare and precious.
Principle of competition
One of the essential characteristics of life on earth — or anywhere else for that matter — is competition. All life is in a state of competition. When artists get the idea that they have to get out there and fight, they can begin to prosper. Rivalry means that the principle of competition is understood. It’s survival of the fittest. Making art is not a god-given right that ought to be rewarded just for the doing. There are other prerequisites. Through your excellent site and the twice-weekly letter the artist community is made more aware of potential resources. Right here is where rivalry and friendship exists.
Permanency of oxide pigments
by Heather Smith
About 4 years ago we visited Roussillon in France where the ochre quarries are. I bought some jars of powdered colour in lovely shades of ochre, sienna and umber. I love the texture they produce and I’m wondering if I dare use them in a painting that would be for sale as there is nothing on the jars about permanency. I’m not worried about 100 years from now, but I wouldn’t like it to flake and fall off within a year. Have you any advice?
(RG note) Oxide pigments in their natural form are among the most permanent colours. There are two areas where you may have trouble, though. One is the degree of grinding that has been done to produce these powders. Size of grain is a factor in rubbing and flaking. Most artist colourmen make sure the grinding is sufficient before tubing or caking and offering for sale. The second is the medium you might contemplate using. If you are planning to do watercolours, water might not be enough to bind those pigments. I recommend adding acrylic medium to the brew. Unless I am very much mistaken a small amount of this medium will hold your genuine and historically connected pigments practically indefinitely.
Artist’s computer program
by Susan Spoke, Chelsea, Quebec, Canada
I am looking for a straight-forward computer program package designed specifically for artists to record inventory, exhibition labels, show lists, mail outs and to help track expenses — income too, if you ever see any. I know I could design something with spread-sheets etc., but my computer programming knowledge is very limited and the learning curve too long.
(RG note) We are in the process of installing just such a program in my studio. It’s called Gallerysoft. Information and prices are at http://www.gallerysoft.com/prices.htm A free consultation can be had by contacting Richard Thompson at Theo Digital Gallery Systems.
oil painting on wood by
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2003.