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PRINT February 1999

MATISSE AND PICASSO: A GENTLE RIVALRY

As final preparations were underway for “Matisse and Picasso: A Gentle Rivalry,” which opens this month at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, art historian LINDA NOCHLIN met with the exhibition’s curator, YVE-ALAIN BOIS, and talked with him about his revisionist approach to the relationship between these two central modernist figures. By turns parodic, agonistic, even elegiac, the conversation Bois details unfolds as a series of nuanced moves and countermoves within the artworks themselves. Often seen as antipodal forces, the two artists emerge as necessary partners and foils, twin protagonists engaged in a mutually enabling dialogue that helped shape the narrative of modern painting.

As the end of the twentieth century approaches, those grand old lions Picasso and Matisse, once seen as polar opposites within the narrative of modernist innovation, seem more and more like congenial creative companions. Perhaps it is today’s art-video, object, or installation oriented-that makes the two look sympathetically old-masterish, mythic remnants of a pre-abstract, painting-and-sculpture-centered tradition inherited from the nineteenth century. In short, Picasso and Matisse today seem more similar than either of them is to Robert Gober, or Janine Antoni, or Mona Hatoum, or for that matter Andy Warhol or even Jackson Pollock. For all the differences in their lives and careers—even their national origins-both have shown their mettle equally as survivors on the historical scale.

It is said that the artist-hero is dead, as are painting and sculpture, the expressive media par

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