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February 19, 2003 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Matisse|Picasso, head to head. Pablo just couldn't be sure he's number one as long as Henri was alive and working. And he's right to look over his shoulder. I admire Pablo, and even like some of his canvases, but for my money Henri is the greatest painter since the renaissance, with Vincent at no. two and Pablo in third. It's nice to see some other folks starting to give Henri his props. (P.S. here's the introduction to the show. Here's the slide show. Here's a review from slate with another slide show with a somewhat different and larger selection of the images.)
posted by jfuller (19 comments total)
I'd agree with you pre-cubism, but post-cubism, Picasso was untouchable. A recent NPR piece on their "rivalry" is worth checking out as well.
posted by machaus at 8:27 AM on February 19, 2003

Cézanne was the best painter since the Renaissance. Lucian Freud is the best painter alive.
posted by 111 at 8:29 AM on February 19, 2003

i guess you could argue that matisse might be the better painter (although i agree with 111 that cezanne holds that position), but as an all-around diverse artist who wasn't afraid to experiment with different mediums and techniques, Picasso wins hands down in my book. Whereas Cezanne was the father of modern art, Picasso was THE definition of modernism.
posted by poopy at 8:51 AM on February 19, 2003

All of these painters are excellent, and I'm pleased we have so many of their works to enjoy. But Picasso takes first place with me. I'm in awe of the transparent-like colors in so may of his works. I try to duplicate that effect in Photoshop often, as it makes me feel I can see forever. I just love the gamut of emotions art brings out in all of us.
posted by LouReedsSon at 9:21 AM on February 19, 2003

How do you even argue this? From what I've seen in person I'd have to say that third-string Matisse is better than third-string Picasso, for whatever that's worth. I'm still kicking myself for not having seen the Matisse/Picasso show when it came through town. Having the book is small consolation.

When you get in the realm of Matisse/Picasso/Van Gogh/Cezanne picking favorites is a total toss-up - you're choosing between artists with fantastic strengths in different areas and basically negligible weaknesses besides. It becomes more about what the viewer likes in art than the artists themselves. Of course you can choose by historical impact and that might be a clearer basis for judgment but it doesn't get at the power of the physical pieces I think. My current favorites are Goya and Klee, but I vacillate.
posted by furiousthought at 9:27 AM on February 19, 2003

i'd like to add another artist who, IMO, isn't given the recognition he deserves. great pastel work.

on preview: yeah, goya's one of my all-time favs.

btw, great post jfuller.
posted by poopy at 9:32 AM on February 19, 2003

it's art, not arm-wrestling.
posted by muckster at 9:47 AM on February 19, 2003

Thanks for the post jfuller. This exhibit of these two artist in comparison is what lead me to finally enjoy their works.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:52 AM on February 19, 2003

Great links, jfuller, but I echo what furiousthought and others have said. I have a pantheon of art gods, and the three you name are among them. I would be hard pressed to elevate one to THE best. That being said, examining the similarities and differences and the way they influenced each other is fascinating.

I agree with the other choices named. I would also throw Gaugin and Manet into the mix.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2003

Picasso and Matisse were very aware of each others' work and of the public's constant comparison of them. They influenced each other. However, I don't think it's accurate to say they "competed" with each other, and I think it's vulgar and simplistic to talk about art as if it is a drag race or a boxing match.

What muckster said.
posted by Shane at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2003

i don't have a problem with people talking about who they think is best. yep, it's all opinion and noone is right, but it's already generated great discussion. if the post were worded: 'matisse and picasso' with a link to the exhibit, the comments would have generally followed along the lines of 'neat', 'great work'. instead some people are voicing their opinions on who they think is the better artist and why they think it, which has produced more robust responses. of course, i could be wrong.

btw, if cezanne and van gogh were in a drag race, my money's on van gogh.
posted by poopy at 10:34 AM on February 19, 2003

Thank you for the Redon link poopy... I never saw anything by him before and what a shame too. This is great stuff. Wow, the colors! :)
posted by LouReedsSon at 10:37 AM on February 19, 2003

thanks. when i first saw his stuff that was my reaction too but i've never had the chance to see his work IRL, which sucks. i'm a huge fan of vibrant colors and bizarre imagery. one of my favorite pre-modern artists is 'the boschman' whose fantastic scenes have much in common with the later goya and even some of redon's work.
posted by poopy at 11:06 AM on February 19, 2003

Ahh, Bosch is incredible! I was first exposed to him in an issue of Smithsonian. His triptics (? I believe) made me imagine a walk through the artist mind; dream-like and inviting.
Ain't art awsome? :)
posted by LouReedsSon at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2003

Bosch's triptychs come off as surprisingly fruity when you see them in person, especially when you compare them with, say, Brueghel the Elder, who prefigures Goya's Black Paintings more closely in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the Bosch, but he came off more goofy and less angsty than I was expecting.

What's neat is all this is in the same museum!
posted by furiousthought at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2003

Thank you all. These are by far the best links I've come accrossed all day! Try this one. (Harry Smith)
posted by LouReedsSon at 11:52 AM on February 19, 2003

Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole. Not in New York.

Still, I'm a passionate Matisse fan. This was great; I loved the side-by-sides.
posted by taz at 11:57 AM on February 19, 2003

yeah furiousthought, i guess bosch has more in common with the surrealists than with goya, but some of his stuff is exceptionally disturbing.

great link for harry smith. never have seen that before. speaking of filmmakers: The Brothers Quay.
posted by poopy at 12:15 PM on February 19, 2003

While I've never really enjoyed Matisse, seeing the year by year comparisons in the Slate link did help me appreciate his work and his influence more, but I wish they had broken it down by month rather than year. According to the online Picasso project, the two probably met for the first time on March 19, were formally introduced by Gertrude Stein in April, and Picasso began painting Self-Portrait with Palette in August. It'd be nice to know the date Matisse began his 1906 Self-Portrait to really be able to compare influence. However, there's a good quote by Picasso in the March 19 link above: "You’ve 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.” So it's probably folly on my part to want to know such specifics. It's obvious they influenced each other and I am glad Matisse's role in 20th century art is being re-evaluated. On a side note, as I was searching for the date Matisse began his Self-Portrait, I came across this nice preview/history of the Matisse/Picasso show. Thanks for the post jfuller.
posted by snez at 1:51 PM on February 19, 2003

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