Matisse wanted to express an affirmative vision of the world… Picasso dared to question everything. Matisse was generous… Picasso had a flair for the new, the unexpected. Matisse intensified the interplay of color, while Picasso’s revolt was aimed at structure and form. Their polarity was mutually invigorating… they needed each other as a permanent challenge.

—Françoise Gilot

matisse cone odalisque

I think they are both interested— and know that the other is interested —in what the other is unable to do. Picasso sends Matisse something that he knows is very, very different from what Matisse is doing. And it’s a very powerful portrait (of Dora Maar). And Picasso chooses, because Matisse gives Picasso a choice, Seated Young Woman in a Persian Dress, which in its innocence is completely removed from what Picasso would do.

Picasso knew that Matisse was fantastic with color — he knew that right from the start. Matisse always admired Picasso’s facility as a draftsman, and Matisse knew that he had to go to endless lengths to achieve the same kind of fluency.

In other words, they each recognized the special talent and facility of the other, and each knew that it was not theirs. So, when they dialogued in their world, they tried to address or to combat, to circumvent the facility. And so, that became their goal. Picasso became an incredibly good colorist because Matisse was there as a competitor. He knew that he would never be able to really compete with Matisse, but nevertheless, he worked very hard.

Matisse became an incredible draftsman, especially at the end of his life. His drawings are just masterpieces. They look effortless. They’re not effortless at all, but they look it. And I think it had a lot to do with the way in which each tried to surpass the other’s achievements. Each was obliged to apply his talents in more diverse and more powerful ways.

—Yves-Alain Bois, Matisse/Picasso

Matisse, La Bonheur de Livre

You have got to be able to picture side by side everything Matisse and I were doing at that time. No one has ever looked at Matisse’s painting more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than he.

If I were not making the paintings I make, I would paint like Matisse.

—Pablo Picasso


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