DetroitJuly 25, 2012
Picasso, Matisse make their mark in DIA print, drawing show
By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer
They were once rivals, but fellow legendary artists Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso would no doubt appreciate the fact that they’re now sharing gallery space at the Detroit Institute of Arts, as they eventually became great friends.
“Picasso and Matisse: The DIA’s Prints and Drawings” showcases more than 100 prints and drawings from the DIA’s own collection, including Matisse’s “Jazz” series and Picasso’s gouache of “The Bather by the Sea.” Both artists had a huge influence on modern art, and this exhibit — located in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Department — shows the range of media in which they worked, including etchings and linoleum cuts. A handful of photographs portray the men behind the art at various stages in their lives.
Besides being groundbreakers — Picasso invented reductive printmaking, for example — this exhibit demonstrates the fact that these artists “could do it all,” said Nancy Sojka, curator and department head of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.
This is a rare opportunity to see many of these works, because the fragility of some pieces mean they can only be displayed for so long before they need to be placed back in storage to preserve them; Sojka said the works will need to “rest” for two years after the exhibit closes for that reason.
Museum officials wanted to create an insightful exhibit that would give them a chance to showcase great work from the DIA’s collection, which is how this exhibit came together, Sojka said. While the museum often hosts shows featuring works borrowed from other institutions, DIA Director Graham Beal said this exhibit “is intended to emphasize the kind of treasures that are in the DIA all the time.”
He said the exhibit highlights the vital role historically played by art donors, including Grosse Pointer Robert Tannahill.
“Eight of 10 objects in American museums are gifts,” Beal said.
Matisse was 12 years’ Picasso’s senior and was already established when Picasso arrived in Paris in his 20s. But by the 1920s and 1930s, “they became best of friends,” Sojka said.
“Neither of them respected anybody better than each other,” she said of Matisse and Picasso, who both retired to the south of France.
Pairing these two modern art legends makes more sense than it might seem at first.
“Their artwork is very different looking and their focus is very different, but in terms of their accomplishments, there is a parallel,” Sojka said.
There are 13 additional paintings by Matisse and Picasso on the museum’s second floor, Sojka said, along with two bronze sculptures. The exhibit directs visitors to see those, as well.
Visitors familiar with Picasso’s revolutionary Cubist style might be surprised to see some of his earlier, more realistic works in this show, which demonstrate his fine art training. And Matisse’s 1919 drawing, “The Plumed Hat” — the earliest Matisse work in the show — “foreshadows everything Matisse will become,” Sojka said.
“It’s a great art show,” she said. “It’s a great summer show. I just associate it with joyfulness and pleasure, and with Matisse, I associate it with color.”
“Picasso and Matisse: The DIA’s Prints and Drawings” is on display through Jan. 6, 2013 at the DIA, located at 5200 Woodward in Detroit’s Cultural Center. Admission to the gallery is free with regular museum admission. The DIA is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free for DIA members or $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $4 for those ages 6-17. For more information, visit www. dia.org or call (313) 833-7900.
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