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Riviera Pebbles Blog: Once-in-a-lifetime: Picasso comes to Nice

Posted on 25th Jun 2018 in Go & Do


Nice's big hitting Musée Matisse, image courtesy of bchookang via WikiMedia Commons

It’s the biggest art event on the French Riviera in 2018. Until September 29th, the Musée Matisse hosts an unprecedented show detailing the friendly rivalry between two 20th-century greats: Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Picasso and Matisse started their careers at loggerheads. The fiery Catalan goaded the northern Frenchman endlessly. "What is a Matisse?”, said Picasso. “A balcony with a big red flowerpot falling all over it!"

Although Matisse described their artistic battle like a boxing match, there was respect. “No one has ever looked at Matisse's painting more carefully than I, and no one has looked at mine more carefully than he,” said Picasso.

After the pair were introduced by Gertrude Stein in 1906, they exchanged paintings. Picasso picked a portrait of Matisse’s daughter Marguerite. Matisse chose the still life Pitcher, Bowl and Lemon in return. Both are now worth tens of millions of dollars.

Their artistic styles and lives dovetailed like a five-decade dance. The intense rivalry (Matisse and Picasso even titled their artworks with the same name) became more focussed after both moved to the South of France in the 1920s.

That makes this summer’s show in Nice even more unique. The chance to survey the rivals side-by-side, in the light-flooded surrounds of the Musée Matisse, is on a par only with a 1945 show at London’s V&A, where their canvases hung in the same war-damaged gallery.

Nearly 75 years later, the current exhibition details their relationship by way of 100 paintings and sculptures, plus photographs, private letters, magazines and films.

Want to see more? The show is part of the two year Picasso-Méditerranée project, which includes 40 major Picasso exhibitions throughout France, Italy, Spain, Malta, Morocco and Turkey. When the show concludes in 2019 several of the works will return to Picasso’s former home in the Musée Picasso in Antibes.

Didn’t like it? Don’t be daft. As Matisse once said: "Only one person has the right to criticize me. It's Picasso."


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