Henry Matisse and Pablo Picasso achieved a great deal of prominence during their time. Henri Matisse (December 1861 – November 1954) was a French artist. He is mainly remembered for the manner in which he used color in his art pieces including prints, paintings and sculptures. Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a Spanish sculptor, ceramist, painter, poet, printmaker and playwright. Picasso spent most of his adult life in France and together with Matisse, they are considered as one of the pioneer figures that led to the development of visual arts in the 20th century. They are considered to be the pioneers of the development of the Cubist movement, invention of collage and constructed sculpture which helped in better exploration of art.
The two artists are cultural icons not only for the different kinds of art that they stood for but also for their different lifestyles. Matisse was more restrained and had a higher sense of privacy when compared to Picasso. His decorum and discretion allowed him to create an art that conveyed the message of sensuality. On the other hand Picasso’s art pieces had some form of emotionality and there are instances that they evoked emotions and passions from their audiences. Picasso the younger of the two artists was always in the habit of seeking Matisse’s attention by stealing heavily from his work and parodying Matisse. Both Matisse and Picasso understood the art of the past and they designed to escape the influence of this art when they met in 1906. Their meeting was arranged by Gertrude Stein an American writer and art collector (Leick, 2013). At the time that they were meeting, there was little commonality in the art pieces of Matisse and Picasso. Though the two had heard of one another, they had not started borrowing from one another’s ideas. The first painting that Matisse shared with Picasso was that of his daughter, Marguerite. Picasso hung this portrait on his studio and was used as a dart board by his friends. This did not go down well with Matisse who considered this as arrogance (Flam, 2008).
Picasso was relatively more dismissive than Matisse (Flam, 2008). Matisse reacted to this by ignoring Picasso. Matisse managed to ignore Picasso for a long time until the 1930s when he needed Picasso’s help in order to move out of the depression that he was undergoing. This helped in improving their relationship to the extent that they visited one another, exchanged paintings and ideas on art. This was occasioned by the increased scrutiny that they subjected to their art pieces. However, there was intense competition between the two (Flam, 2008). Matisse and Picasso criticized one another even though they also admired the intelligence and talent that each of them had. Matisse and Picasso had different religious convictions. For instance, Picasso was an atheist while Matisse was a Christian. Due to his Christian leanings, he was involved in development of decorations for some chapels. Picasso thought that Matisse should be involved with designing markets and not churches. In one of the criticisms, Picasso stated that Matisse’s church designs looked like those of a bathroom even though he loved the artistic impressions in the design (Flam, 2008).
A deeper analysis of the art pieces developed by Matisse and Picasso reveals some fundamental differences between the two. As has been mentioned, Matisse was a cool and collected artist while Picasso was a little bit temperamental. Matisse’s paintings are soothing, luxurious and harmonious. Picasso copied elements of Matisse’s works but changed them to include his ideas and themes. For example, he could change the color and line work to include disturbance and violence. Picasso was easily angered by critics who wanted him to explain his art pieces. This happened because he did not have a good command of the French language (Richardson, 2010). Matisse used the geographical differences to describe himself and Picasso. He stated that they were as different as the North Pole from the South Pole. He desired to highlight the fact that he was from Northern France while Picasso was from Southern Spain. However, despite their differences, there seemed to be a sense of attraction and commonality between them (Richardson, 2003).
Both Matisse and Picasso are considered as revolutionary 20th century artists even though Picasso is considered more as the father of modern art (Kramer, 2013). The reason for this is that almost all the art pieces that Matisse developed before the First World War disappeared at once. These pieces could have been destroyed during the war. During this time, there was increased public awareness of Picasso’s at pieces and their role in the society (Spurling, 2002). The art pieces of both Matisse and Picasso reflected the culture of the time. As has been mentioned, they exchanged ideas and encouraged one another to be better artists in their career.
In conclusion, both Matisse and Picasso are important personalities in art movement. They were both involved in development and influencing modern art. The two artists are born 12 years apart with Matisse being the older and the relatively more reserved one. Matisse and Picasso are believed to have first met in 1906 in a meeting organized by Gertrude Stein an American writer and art collector. After this meeting, the artists exchanged art pieces and interacted more frequently. These artists criticized and dismissed one another even though they had much respect for one another.
- Flam, J. (2008). Matisse and Picasso: The story of their rivalry and friendship. New York: Basic Books.
- Kramer, H. (2013). The triumphs of modernism: The art world, 1987-2005. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Leick, K. (2013). Gertrude Stein and the making of an American celebrity. New York:
- Richardson, J. (2003). Between Picasso and Matisse. Retrieved from
- Richardson, J. (2010). A life of Picasso: The triumphant years, 1917-1932. New York: Alfred A.