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Hundreds of works on display by two giants of 20th-century art

Picasso and Matisse: The DIA’s Prints and Drawings,

July 11, 2012–January 6, 2013

“Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can’t explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”
— Picasso

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Henri Matisse (1869–1954) have long been favorites of the public. Almost all of the works by them in the museum’s collection have been organized into this exhibition that is free with museum admission.

The Wild Poppies, Henri Matisse, 1953. Goauche, charcoal, and collage. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Picasso began creating art when he was seven years old, trained by his artist/art teacher father. By age 13 it was evident that his talent would surpass that of his father. When he was 19, after studying art in Spain, Picasso went to Paris and became a favorite of prominent collectors and established entrepreneurs. His early realistic paintings and prints were well regarded, but his fractured studies of form and space known as Cubism revolutionized artists’ attitudes about perception and vision.

White Pigeon on Black Background, Pablo Picasso, 1947. Lithograph. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Matisse, 12 years Picasso’s senior, was born to a prosperous business family in northern France. He earned a law degree in Paris and was practicing back home as a court assistant when in his early 20’s he decided to change careers. He left for Paris to become an art student and by 1896 his work was in major Parisian exhibitions. Matisse’s interest with pattern dominated his career, whether abstractly in thinking about lines as shapes or in thinking about brilliantly colored shapes playing off each other.

Circus, Henri Matisse, 1943. Pochoir. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the early 1940s, when poor health affected his dexterity, Matisse turned to what he called “drawing with scissors,” in which he cut forms out of brightly colored paper and pinned them together. One such project is Jazz, which consists of a book and album, each with the same 20 prints. Two hundred and seventy copies of the book and 100 copies of the album were created, resulting in a total of 7,400 prints. A team of printers worked for years to create stencil prints from the collages designed by Matisse.The exhibition will display 17 of the 20 prints from the Jazz album (see video below).

Still Life with Fruit and Flowers, Henri Matisse, 1947. Brush and ink. Detroit Institute of Arts. © 2012 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Picasso and Matisse were ground-breaking visionaries who constantly experimented with techniques and materials. They were friends, colleagues, and rivals for half a century. At the turn of the 20th century they were vying for leadership of the Parisian avant-garde art world

“We have such a rich collection of modern art, and are delighted to showcase nearly all our significant works by Picasso and Matisse,” said Graham W. J. Beal, DIA director. “In the early years of the 20th century, these two seminal artists engaged in a fierce rivalry, each trying to out-do the other and be seen as the premier Modern artist of the time. Once established, they went their separate, equally prolific, ways but continued to watch one another’s development from afar, this time, more in the spirit of a mutual admiration shared by seasoned veterans.”

Museum hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, $4 for ages 6-17, and free for DIA members. For membership information call 313-833-7971.