Matisse, Picasso, and Women

29 May
Matisse Woman With A Hat

Matisse Woman With A Hat

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde”. The thrill of seeing a blockbuster exhibit like this is entering a room and catching sight of a painting you have long admired, and always seen reproduced, and seeing it up close- each brushstroke remarkably vivid. I wanted to see this exhibit because I like Matisse- his colors, his strokes, and his portrayal of women. Compare the latter to Picasso’s nearly literal objectification of women in his work, and you see an important difference between the two artists.

Consider the beautiful work above. “Woman with a Hat” was controversial in its time for its use of color. Yet Matisse infuses the woman with not just color but emotion- her face is a canvas that conveys longing, wistfulness, perhaps regret, and sadness. The bright color contrasts the sadness in her eyes.  Matisse has drawn a fully human portrait here.

Now look at the painting below. Picasso’s “Head in Three Quarter View” shows an up close view of a tribal mask gazing downward. Or is it the face of a woman? The face has the color and texture of a bronze mask; as a matter of fact, it looks detached, as if there is nothing in the back. Picasso’s women were wild objects of desire, objects of fascination that served as muse (I also saw a report on the exhibit “L’Amour Fou” at the Met this morning on CBS Sunday Morning, about Picasso’s muse and lover Marie-Therese Walter.) The women are flat and one-dimensional- a receptacle for the artist’s talent.

In any case, if you are in San Francisco at any point before September 6th, you should see this extraordinary exhibit.

Head in Three Quarter View

Head in Three Quarter View

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