Monday, March 10, 2003


Friendship and Rivalry

Julia and I saw the Matisse-Picasso exhibit on Saturday. Despite the crowds, it was possible to spend thoughtful time in each section. People, for the most part, were considerate and patient. As usual, I paid five dollars for a headset to listen to commentary from the art historians, and then wondered why I had done so. The talking keeps me from being able to see and feel. I know this - I should quit worrying about not having the "technical" background to appreciate what I am seeing (the insecurity that makes me succumb each time) and trust my eyes and instincts to take it in. Anything I need to know I can read in the book later. You'd think I would know by now.

It is a stunning exhibit. Full of masterpieces that you know well and can't believe you're seeing with your own eyes...but also sprinkled with delicacies from private collections that I've never seen before.

It was so interesting to see Matisse's masterpiece "Nasturiums with 'Dance" II" (the blue painting with four dancers linked in a circle) juxtaposed with Picasso's "The Three Dancers." Of course, the Matisse is stunning - brilliant composition, and a sense of floating airiness that draws the viewer in. The Picasso, while not strictly a cubist work, is dominated by cubist/surrealist qualities. As such, it felt heavy and encumbered next to the effervescence of the Matisse - Picasso's big feet have never looked so clunky! Yet for me, the sense of joy in Picasso's three dancers leaps out of the frame. While the Matisse's dancers are classically beautiful, the raw energy of the Three Dancers is literally bursting out of the canvas. At least, for me.

I saw a painting that I'd never seen before - Picasso's "Nude in a Black Armchair" - from a private collection (unnamed). So few lines, and so bold - and she is so beautiful. And, for the record, I am in love with Picasso's "The Studio at 'La Californie'" - I wish I could live with this painting.

Julia was drawn to a Matisse called "Portrait of Mlle Yvonne Landsberg." It is in no way a typical Matisse - it is done in shades of black, grey and straw - and quite abstract. Of course, it's not a commercially appealing Matisse - no way there would be a poster. Too bad - Jules would have loved to have had it to hang in her room. Her takeaway from the exhibit? She prefers Matisse - problem with Picasso's cubist work - but thinks that in general Picasso's eyes are "much warmer." Even though she is only 11, her artist's eye reveals new information to me.

The exhibition ends with an affecting Matisse quote, painted on the wall. (I'm paraphrasing) We must talk to one another often. For after one of us dies, there will be many things the other can talk to no one else about.

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