Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Celebrated as the two greatest artists of the 20th century, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso were struck by each others' genius since they first met in 1906. Each recognized in the other his one true rival by which to measure his own success, and by looking at and learning from one another for nearly half a century were driven to ever higher levels of accomplishment. Despite their personal and stylistic differences the two men were closer in spirit than any other two artists of their time.
Between 1944 and 1946 Picasso and his new young lover, Françoise Gilot, frequently visited Matisse while he convalesced at his home in Nice. Matisse wrote in a letter to his son Pierre on 19 March 1946, "Three or four days ago, Picasso came to see me with a very pretty young woman [Françoise Gilot]. He could not have been more friendly, and he said he would come back and have a lot of things to tell me. He hasn't come back. He saw what he wanted to see--my works in cut paper, my new paintings, the painted door, etc. That's all he wanted. He will put it all to good use in time" (J. Russell, Matisse: Father and Son, New York, 1999, p. 245).
In anticipation of a meeting with Picasso in August of 1945 to begin arrangements for their joint exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum that winter, a restless Matisse again wrote to Pierre, "Tomorrow Sunday, at 4 o'clock, visit from Picasso. As I'm expecting to see him tomorrow, my mind is at work. I'm doing this propaganda show in London with him. I can imagine the room with my pictures on one side, and his on the other. It's as if I am going to cohabit with an epileptic. How quiet I will look (even a bit old hat for some) next to his pyrotechnics, as Rodin used to call my works! I still go for it head on, I never recoiled from a heavy or embarrassing neighbour. Justice will prevail, I always thought. But then, what if he was right? People are so nuts!" (quoted in Y.-A. Bois, Matisse and Picasso, Paris, 1998, p. 180).
Matisse's fears were justified. Picasso's paintings, which violently echoed and commented on the German occupation of France evoked emotional and laudatory critical respones, while Matisse's canvases were often criticized for verging on the purely decorative. Matisse even lamented the praise that was bestowed upon his own work, imagining these critics were simply being courteous to him, the older artist.
The current work was executed in 1942 and depicts Dora Maar, Picasso's lover from 1936 to 1944. The deepening intimacy of their liaison coincided with the Fascist uprising and ensuing Civil War in Spain; in fact, the entire history of their relationship was tragically and inescapably set against the backdrop of violence and war. An intimate and beautifully-rendered portrait of Dora on her infamous armchair painted in ethereal layers of pastel-colored gouache, perhaps the most significant and extraordinary aspect of this work is the revealing dedication at lower right. In an act of unabashed warmth and respect, Picasso gifted this work to Matisse inscribing it "pour Henri Matisse amicalement Picasso." The gift of such a personal work underscores the careful and deliberate nature in which the artists selected works to present one another. The work was part of Matisse's personal collection until his death in 1954 and has remained with his family ever since.
(fig. 1) Catalogue cover for the exhibition Matisse et Picasso, held in May 1946 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Bibliotèque Musée Picasso, Paris.