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The Artistic Intentions of Matisse and Picasso

Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were two of Europe’s greatest twentieth-century artists, engaged in a half a century comrade combat. Matisse & Picasso, showing at the National Gallery of Australia, is the first exhibition in Australia to tell the story of the artistic intentions behind their relationship.

Having met in 1906, the passionate pair continued their ‘friendly’ competition, following each other’s creative developments, achievements and artistic intentions. This continued rivalry was not just key to their individual success and notoriety, but it changed the course of 20th Century Western European art.

The exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, just a 10-minute drive or longer leisurely stroll from Ovolo Nishi, will see some works on display for the first time in Australia. Bringing together more than 60 paintings and sculptures from collections worldwide the National Gallery of Australia reveals their artistic intentions, the how and why, these two modern art giants mined each other’s work to enhance their own.

Matisse & Picasso at National Gallery of Australia

Who is Matisse?

Henri Matisse, born 31 December 1869, was one of the most influential and revolutionary artists of the twentieth century. Best known for his use of brilliant colour and exaggerated form to express emotion through paintings, sculpture, printmaking and more, across a six-decade career.

Despite studying to be a lawyer, Matisse’s artistic intentions were revealed when he began painting, recuperating from an illness, confirming his newfound vocation. Developing his style and artistic intentions throughout the early years of the twentieth century, Matisse’s works were heavily influenced by the emphasis of sinuous lines to evoke emotional power, strong brushwork and acid-bright colours, synonymous with Fauvism.

Henri Matisse in his Paris studio in 1948

Who is Picasso?

Considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Pablo Picaso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramist, stage designer, poet and playwright who uncovered his artistic intentions during the Fauvist movement that overcame Paris in the early twentieth century.

Picasso is one of the twentieth century’s most memorialised artists. Remembered for his distortion of the prior popular realism of the late nineteenth century, exploring movements, most predominantly cubism.

Pablo Picasso in his Paris studio in 1939

How did Matisse and Picasso know each other?

Prior to meeting, Matisse and Picasso had already begun their own, very public, competition – a challenge of opposites. Officially introduced in 1906 by Gertrude Stein, both Matisse and Picasso’s artistic intentions continued to be put on public display as a decade’s old rivalry. One which we now know to be a secret partnership where each man’s genius was relied upon to some degree  to spark the others creativity.

Mattise once said, of Picasso apparent ‘infrequent’ visits “We’ve got to see each other often, because when one of us goes, there are things the other will no longer be able to say to anyone. But he never comes.” Picasso actually regularly frequented Matisse’s with Francoise Gilot, Picasso’s partner at the time, recalling how ‘no one quite meant as much to him (Picasso) as Matisse.’ Both friends and foes (‘frenemies’) the artistic intentions of these two twentieth century legends revolutionised modern art.

What are the most well-known works of Matisse?

  • Woman in a Purple Coat (1937)
  • The Open Window, Collioure (1905)
  • Goldfish and Palette (1914)
  • Luxe, Calme et Volupte (1904)
  • Woman with a Hat (1905)
  • Bathers by a River (1917)
  • The Red Studio (1911)
  • The Joy of Life (1906)

Woman in a Purple Coat [1937]

What are the most well-known works of Picasso?

  • Guernica (1937)
  • Les Demoiselles Dávignon (1907)
  • The Weeping Woman (1937)
  • The Old Guitarist (1903-1904)
  • Le Reve (1932)
  • Three Musicians (1921)
  • Girl Before a Mirror (1932)
  • La Vie (1903)
  • Ma Jolie (1911-1912)
  • Family of Saltimbanques (1905)

Les Demoiselles Dávignon [1907]

The Artistic Intentions of Ovolo Nishi

Experience the fruitful perks of a relationship as entwined as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso as Ovolo Nishi join forces with Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia to offer a package sculpted for travellers with Artistic Intentions. Celebrate decades of friendly rivalry which changed the course of 20th Century Western European art with two night’s away in our artistic surrounds, tickets to the exhibition, handcrafted chocolates and a midday late check out. Book now at