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The Age of Picasso and Matisse at the Kimbell
Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago
October 6 2013 through February 15, 2014
Also see Anna's and my popular page about the 2012 Kimbell exhibition The Age of Impressionism.
Work on this page is arranged in as strict a chronological order as I could manage.
Except as noted, all photographs on this page copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
To help make sense of the progression, he images on this page are presented in chronological order.
Henri Matisse The Serf 1900-04 bronze 36.4 x 12.7 x 11.7 inches from his 1900 painting, Male Model
If there ever really was an Age of Picasso and Matisse, it began in 1890 when both artists started making art. Matisse was 20 and Picasso 9. If it was an historical age and not just hype since the Kimbell's last big show was The Age of Impressionism, it continued at least past Matisse's death in 1954 and Picasso's in 1973, to 83 years, longer than the 1900 – 1964 span represented in this show.
The Chicago collection thinned precipitously by the 1950s and 60s, so it's a tight fit that might more simply and logically be called the First Half of the 20th Century. Its most recent three pieces are Jean Arp's 1952 Configuration, the Pablo Picasso 1959 Nude Under a Pine Tree that's on the catalog cover and Marcel Duchamp's 1964 Hat Rack replacement of his original 1917 ReadyMade.
Naming the show after just two guys seems short-sighted, since they each have only ten pieces here, with 79 by other artists. Runners-up include Joan Miró with six and a four-way tie for second place with Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger and Man Ray with four pieces each. Many assume a show called by those two famous names includes only their work.
After we left the Kimbell, we met an artist installing his show at the Fort Worth Community Art Center. He was avoiding this show, because he didn't like either artist. When we explained there were many more great artists than just Picasso and Matisse, and described some of our favorites, he said he'd attend. But it startled us that any artist wouldn't like anything by either of them, since their work was wildly diverse, even erratic. But we understand his confusion.
The one other artist most often mentioned as a definer of 20th Century Art is Marcel Duchamp, whose only entry here is that hat rack and its spidery, insubstantial shadow [bottom of page]. It's just wrong to hang a whole Age of rampant experimentation and pushing against old rules, on two guys, however amazing their drive and talent.
The work in the Kimbell's apparently successful Age of Impressionism was borrowed from The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts, and this one's from the better-known Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). But neither collection is definitive of their era, so the museum got a little carried away with the title, but who cares?
It's a great show.
AIC About This Artwork – The Art Institute of Chicago sometimes has an About This Artwork blurb with intelligent info for work in their collection. When it doesn't, I don't link it.
My most amazing find researching this story was WikiPaintings' growing catalog of artists' work sorted by year. First time I visited, only Picasso's was. Weeks later many more are, and it's a stunning way to sew together the visual stops, starts and rejoins of a life's work. WikiPaintings calls these suites "chronological," but I suspect "sorted by year," which they also sometimes claim, is more accurate, so I have labeled links that way. I always pause the 'slides' when they auto time, because I like taking my sweet time with them
The next 76 hyperlink items link from gray indented text like this.
WikiPaintings links like this one for Pablo Picasso don't say Sorted by Year, but all of them are. 78 of Picasso's earliest works.
495 of Matisse's earlier works The Sculpture of Matisse
Grace Glueck's NY Times review: Sideline Illuminates Matisse's Main Line.
Pablo Picasso The Old Guitarist late
1903–early 1904 oil on panel 48.4 x 32.5 inches
Picasso's famed "Blue Period" Old Guitarist, begun in late 1903, is cited as the show's earliest work, although Matisse worked on his bronze The Serf above since 1900, after an essentially similar painting with a different title. I'm more a fan of what he did when he was a kid.
WikiPaintings: Pablo Picasso sorted by year
A Youthful Genius Confronts His Destiny: Picasso's Old Guitarist in The Art Institute of Chicago by Mary Mathews Gedo and Picasso
Wikipedia Old Guitarist
AIC About This Artwork
The Painting Under the Painting
Maurice de Vlaminck Houses at Chatou circa
1905 oil on canvas 31.9 x 39.6 inches
The diversity of Twentieth Century Art was remarkable, and innovation ran rampant, but there's no way it all stemmed from just Matisse and Picasso, or even from them plus Duchamp and Cezanne. Nobody had to jump-start the progress — it was ripe, and although these are many of the important artists who made it happen, there's lots more.
WikiPaintings Maurice de Vlaminck
Origin of the the term, "Fauves."
Style and biography
A Grove Art Online review
An Artwork A Day
AIC About This Artwork
738 Vlaminck thumbnails
Pablo Picasso Nude with a Pitcher 1906
oil on canvas 39.6 x 31.9 inches
Some of the work on this page is here because I like it; some — like this famous one — because I don't; a few because they are deemed historically important; and others because I got a good photo. I'm less in thrall with work that I've already seen too often — and usually badly reproduced.
Like many works from The Art Institute of Chicago, this one does not appear in Wikipaintings' Pablo Picasso - Sorted by Year collection — althought that suite of pages changes often. Until you see most of Picasso's work arranged by year, this piece seems to mark a change of direction, but the year of its creation also marks another important date in the history of 20th Century Art — when Picasso met Matisse, and they began their long-term friendship and/or rivalry.
Matisse had already established himself as the leader of the Paris artists' community, but Picasso was driven to replace him, and did, although it hasn't always been obvious. That personal competition led to many but certainly not all of the important developments in the new century.
George Braque Antwerp 1906 oil
on canvas 24 x 29 inches
I've heard, read and seen stories about Braque and Picasso inventing Cubism, which, if they did, happened only after they saw both African art and Cezanne's, but Matisse also had an important, if literal, hand in it, even if Braque and Picasso spent years parsing and codifying the art style that became a movement.
This piece, my favorite of the three Braques, has nothing to do with that. The other AIC Braques are Cubist, and colorful only in dull grays, rich red-browns and the occasional blue, and they are more intellectual than this Post-Impressionist painting done while Braque was still in the thrall of Fauvism.
Picasso and Africa — How African Art Influenced Pablo Picasso and His Work by Nadine Pennisi with mention of Matisse introducing Picasso to a small piece of it Matisse had bought.
African Influences in Modern Art from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History by Denise Murrel
Three Braques are represented in the show. WikiPaintings has at least two collections of his work with 241 (and counting) here and nine here, though those groupings will likely change.
Wikipedia illustrated bio
About Louis Vauxcelles, the Frecnh Art Critic who invented the phrases, Cubism and Fauvism. Image of Vauxcelles on Wikipedia.
Man Ray Percolator 1916 oil
on composition board 24.5 x 18.5 inches
There's a more colorful Man Ray (nee Emmanuel Radnitzky) painting from a year earlier that intrigues with blue, gold, black and white on a brushed gray field — and an exquisite geometric chess set that I photographed multiple several, but this painting stole my breath even before I learned it depicted the inner parts of a percolator in the act of percolating, while strongly suggesting the photograms Ray called rayographs that I've grown up with over the last fifty-plus years.
WikiPaintings Man Ray
Google Images: Rayographs...
Henri Matisse, Bathers by a River,
March 1909–10, May–November
and early spring 1916–October (?) 1917
oil on canvas 102.5 x 154 inches The Art Institute
Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection. © 2013 Succession
H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Because it was on every area website and newspaper and art blog when this show opened and I began writing this, I avoided using this piece that, as our assistant director and curator tour guides kept repeating, Matisse considered his most pivotal work.
As described in an About.com's Art History page, Matisse bought Cézanne's 1975 Three Bathers from Amroise Vollard in 1899.
According to the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Cézanne and Beyond Chronology for November – December 1895, Edgar Degas, Monet, Renoir and Pissarro all bought Cézannes. In its May 9 – June 10, 1898 entry, "Vollard mounts another important 0ne-person exhibition of more than sixty Cézanne paintings. Matisse likely sees the show." In late 1899 Vollard buys "the entire contents of Cézanne's studio," mounts another solo exhibition, "from which Matisse purchases his first Cézanne, Three Bathers, 1879-82."
This turning point doesn't look much like Cézanne's bathers, but there are visual and thematic links, and I'm warming to it, although it still looks more like a Picasso than a Matisse.
The Art Institute of Chicago's Matisse Radical Invention page gives us a text intro to this piece, then leads us through the numbers (on the upper right of that page) to individual steps along his nine-year project.
More info: www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/500Ways/artwork/79307 and theartinstituteofchicago.blogspot.com/2011/12/aic-modern-wing-contemporary-art-henri.html
Comparing with Rousseau's The Dream, 1910, Gauguin's Where Do We Come From? etc, 1897-98; and Cézanne's The Large Bathers, 1906
How the Great Artists Imagined Paradise Lost, and Regained by Bob Duggan
Bathers by a River – a multipart Introduction with illustrations shows the visual story of this iconic painting through its long transition.
Cezanne's 1878 Five Bathers C 1878 Four Bathers Study of Bathers
Joan Miró Portrait of Juanita Obrador 1918 oil on canvas 27.6 x 24.2 inches
Juanita didn't like this portrait, nor the too-many hundred times she had to sit for it, and when she saw it, she called Miró a "dangerous madman." He finished the painting without her, though it seems tame compared with his Standing Nude, 1918, the next work in his WikiPaintings' timeline, though most of that one's action is the background.
If we could ignore the clown makeup, this aggressively patterned painting is merely startling, though much less for us now than her then. The green leaf and tiny red flower gives the portrait the faint whiff of delicacy, but once our eyes lock onto her nose, lips, cheeks and throat, we understand her cry-fowl of menacing maniacism.
AIC About This Artwork
This is #16 of 192 in WikiPaintings' Joan Miró paintings, but my photo is more accurate, especially if you use a Mac, or your monitor is optimized.
Henri Matisse Interior at Nice (detail)
1919 or 1920 oil on canvas 51.7 x 35.6 inches
Often, the most fascinating joy I have at press previews, is getting my eyes and camera close enough to paintings that I and the artists and painters who see my pictures can feel the individual colors, textures, layers, piles and brushstrokes as the artist created. Sometimes I shake my head then body to their inspired rhythms. Standing back to see the work as a soft cartoon of itself ten people back in a museum is nice enough, but watching their paint dance is amazing.
Use the link next to see the whole thing. I keep thinking this is the entire painting I get into the scrub, scape and slosh of it so much.
AIC About This Artwork
Emil Nolde Red-Haired Girl 1919 oil
on canvas 25.7 x 15.7 inches
Although this show shows many women, only three women artists are represented — Suzanne Duchamp, Nathalija Gontcharova and Gabriele Münter, and it's probably my fault I had not heard of the last two. I understand from a silly recent KERA interview that the AIC was a very Conservative entity when it began collecting the art of its time, if not place. I love this painting, because it looks like one of my close-ups, though this is the whole piece, an amazing amalgam of colors, tones and textures, wild but true.
Wiki Paintings Emil Nolde
The three women artists were:
Suzanne Duchamp: Suzanne Duchamp. Broken and Re-Established Multiplication with a downloadable MP3 audio presentation on MoMA Multimedia leads us through her painting. Biographic information at Jacques Villon info and DADA Biographies
Nathalija Gontcharova: Wikipedia "Her own note on her development" her words and work against an annoying orange background Spanish Dancer by Nathalija Gontcharova on Group8ball's Blog Russian Ladies of the Avant-garde on Russian Life.
Gabriele Münter: her works video with an Eric Satie piano soundtrack on YouTube notice of the book, Wassily Kandisnky and Gabriele Munter with short bio Listing on National Museum of Women in the Arts Wikipedia entry
Pablo Picasso Still Life 1922 oil on canvas 32.1 x 39.6 inches
This one is stunning. I had to go back through my Picasso books and Picasso Sorted by Year to find anything like it, and in that same year I saw two more that use the contrasty, close-lined grids. Kinda like cubism flattened by a steam-roller, except nicer color, clear and sharp. You sure this is Pablo? I'd believe it better of Joan Miró.
Now we transition down through
another odd shape and color, followed by another, and another
— accidental juxtapositioning and sorting by date — scrolling
down this page.
Marc Chagall, The Praying Jew, 1923 (one of two versions
after 1914 original),
The Art Institute of Chicago. Joseph Winterbotham Collection.
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
oil on canvas 45 x 35 inches
I love the soft, mostly
monochromatic tones in this gentle portrait of a people — and that he'd
done a similar piece before, liked it enough to do another, then another.
The first was in 1914. After seeing all those, so-similar, wildly-colorful
or busy black & white energy-charged paintings by this extremely prolific
painter, I did not expect this quiet serenity. Although
now I've seen 1,005 of his paintings in
rapid succession, I know there are soft others, but I still find this as luscious
as a wool Mexican blanket I used to keep me warm under in winters.
AIC - About This Artwork
WikiPaintings Marc Chagall - sorted by year.
Theo van Doesburg Counter-Composition VIII 1924 oil
on canvas 56.3 x 56.1 inches
This exquisite geometry — set and setting, including the wall behind it, makes an intriguing tonal comparison to the flesh of The Praying Jew above and Joan Miró's mustachioed cop, horse and vivid red hand — to catch us red-handed, and a blue shoe or shadow under its essence of hoof. I watched and assumed Mondrian every time I saw this and even when I photographed it and its info card, only much later realizing it's a whole other painter, then via AIC About This Artwork finally figuring out who De Stijl were.
Except to crop them out of photos, I did not notice wall colors on any other space in the galleries, but this is perfect.
WikiPaintings Theo van Doesburg - sorted by year.
Joan Miró The Policeman 1925 oil
on canvas 97.7 x 77.9 inches
One of a long series of cartoons on one-color grounds, from at least 1924, that eventually comprise a major subgenre of his work — growing both simpler and more complex through the 1970s, which the most recent dates in WikiPainting's Miró chronology. Clicking through his sorted-by-year collection is an especially rewarding way to see how artists grow, try new things, then see the successful ones incorporated into their work.
WikiPaintings Joan Miró - sorted by year.
Giorgio de Chirico The Eventuality of Destiny 1927 oil
on canvas 57.6 x 45.1 inches
I have long enjoyed de Chirico's architectural spaces and sudden inserts of color, but until I stood in front of this in the hallowed halls of the Kimbell, I was never aware of all the color shenanigans going on in his Classical-shaped figures. Bodies lilting with strange hues popping out of nearly neutral space, and somewhere back there a window bright with a distant glimpse of light blue sky.
WikiPaintings Giorgio de Chirico
Pablo Picasso Head 1927 oil
and chalk on canvas 31.7 x 39.4 inches
Blue smears in the upper right are daylight reflecting off the glass protecting this startling painting. I couldn't get that errant blue out of the picture. Reflections of daylight often appear in photos taken inside the museum. The staff talks about it as a feature, but I'm not convinced.
I'd never seen art with textures like these, and I was immediately and repeatedly drawn into that scattered mix of chemicals, as I am still. I'm sure the art audience when this was first shown, was still being startled by the Cubist lines, but that's barely noticeable 86 years later. We've seen comic books, Modern Art for about a century and art way more bizarre than this, but this still thrills.
The card for Head calls it "an example of Pablo Picasso's constant experimentation with style and technique: to make this work, he laid the canvas flat and sprinkled powdered pigment onto the still-wet painting. In some areas, Picasso left layers of the powdery material undisturbed, making a rough surface; in others, he scraped the pigment off, producing a flat and blurred effect. The experimental qualities of Head certainly appealed to its first owner, English Surrealist artist Gordon Onslow Ford, who had asked writer Anddré Breton to search out "marvelous" works for sale…"
AIC About This Artwork
Max Beckmann Reclining Nude 1929 oil
on canvas 33.6 x 47.6 inches
Henri Matisse Seated Nude 1925-29 bronze 31.1 x 31.1 x 13.6 inches
I'm so sorry I did not photograph Max Beckman's towering, uber-assertive self-portrait, which I'd love to show large here in all its brazen presumption. It may be even more forceful than his painted nude, shown between Matisse's Seated Nude, the photographer and the art guard with a pink tie.
I apologize for not giving the Matisse sculpture its stand-alone
due, but then neither does the catalog, although certainly both it and the
big Matisse nude need their own pages. While the Nazis, who were
experts in the realm, called Beckman's — and other great art in this collection
— degenerate, by comparison Matisee's grand Seated Nude seems classical,
Max Beckmann Reclining Nude 1929 oil
on canvas 33.6 x 47.6 inches
Hard to imagine this as anything but an in-your-face assertion. It may be one of his best pieces, free of the dark, thin linear shrillness of most Beckman paintings, compared to which, this is clear, sharp, bold, voluminous and bright.
WikiPaintings Max Beckman
AIC About This Artwork
Paul Klee Sunset 1930 oil
on canvas 17.2 x 26.6 inches
In its exquisite texture, dark and muted colors, dotted, splotched and undercolored form, this painting seems to fit right into its historical timeline. Fascinating how Art can do that, then skip nine years into a whole new way of expressing itself — as in the next painting down.
AIC About This Artwork brief Klee bio
Paul Delvaux The Awakening of the Forest 1939 oil
on canvas 67.1 x 88.7 inches
This large painting was the first piece in the show I really paid attention to and got soaked into. It looked so out of place, libidinously alluring and bizarre. I watched it for a long time, gradually discerning most of the inhabitants described in the Institute's blurb below. Note the updated similarities with Matisse's big pivot.
AIC About This Artwork
Balthus (Galtusz Klossowski de Rola) Solitaire 1943 oil
on canvas 63.6 x 64.7 inches
This has to be this show's oddest art out, overtly portraying a woman playing solitaire in a withdrawing room, figuratively about to be swallowed by the gaping maw of a large, dark unknown from the left, or snuck up upon by an even darker, though better-known assailant from off stage behind. We voyeurs leer into the shadows and imagine we know just what kind of games these are.
According to the museum's i.d, "...Solitaire was painted in Switzerland, where the artist returned during World War II. It reveals the influence of such Old Masters as Piero della Francesca and Paolo Uccello in its monumentality as well as its awkwardness, both of which Balthus used to underscore the irrational and disconcerting nature of unconscious human behavior."
Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, a.k.a., Balthus & his Oil Painting Masterpieces
AIC About This Artwork
Yves Tanguy The Rapidity of Sleep (detail)
on canvas 50.2 x 40.1 inches
I got in especially close with this shot, discovering not so much brushstroke details as these secret colors I never imagined might lurk in the odd but ordinary-ish sail-scape after inspecting what I first thought as a dullish image the museum sent out, watching the full painting or the photo in the catalog. It's not a big painting, but discovering this tiny spectra of luminous color details surprised and delighted me. Not sure what's going on exactly, but it doesn't make me want to forget Yellow Submarines.
Brief Wiki History of European Art as seen at the Salon d'Automne
Marcel Duchamp Hat Rack 1964 wood The
most recent artwork in the collection.
The original Marcel Duchamp Hat Rack readymade was from 1916 or 17, then "lost." This one was discovered in 1964 and twenty five years later gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Wiki Paintings Marcel Duchamp
Why the Hatrack is and/or is not Readymade Taking Jokes By Duchamp To Another Level of Art A Museum That is Not and the DADA Companion
T H E C A T A L O G
The Kimbell calls the show's full-color-illustrated and nearly affordable, $25 paperback book a "catalog" although it does not present its data in systematic alphabetic or chronological order, but willy nilly mixes artists, theme and style essays through the pages, all of which are indexed on the Contents page, although the work, images and photographs are not.
Nor does the paperback book that calls itself The Age of Picasso and Matisse refer to itself as a catalog, although all of the pieces are there, just not in any particular order.
After page-spreads of Foreword, Acknowledgments, six pages of Modern Art at the Art Institute of Chicago; Color and Form in Early-Twentieth-Century Art, the Blue Guitarist commences a page-by-page chronology, and the first artist essayed is Vasily Kandinsky — not Picasso or Matisse. Then, after illustrated stories about Expressionism and Cubism, comes Marc Chagall with his family and paintings, and finally a black & white photo of an old and tired Pablo Picasso followed by eight of his ten pieces, and a School of Paris essay with eight paintings on eight pages, and eventually another black & white photo of some guy named Henri Matisse with a one-page essay and seven color pictures on six pages. Following in rapid succession are Fernand Léger, Dada, Paul Klee, Abstraction, Constantin Brãncusi, Max Ernst, Surrealism and Biomorphic Abstraction, Photography credits and the back cover.
The catalog offers some good quick reads, with nice color pictures. When I saw a stack of them on the sign-in desk, I wanted one, said so, and was told that since I was writing about it, I'd need one. I did refer to it often, but it was difficult to find anything I wanted when I wanted it except by happenstance. The cover looks great — until you see the work it is fashioned after, which is lighter and more evenly-toned.
I also managed to wrangle a configurable, official database of the work in full particulars of artist, title date, medium, sizes, credit line and access date, but compared to it, the text in the catalog was lively and fascinating.
The one image on this page with long, ostentatious captions and copyright notices were provided by the Kimbell, and all that data was required for use. Works captioned with our usual straightforward DallasArtsRevue who, what, when and how big, were photographed by me. As usual, I have concerns about the accuracy of image reproduction in the catalog or as provided for the press, so when it was convenient, I shot them myself. It took forever to photograph what I got, but I wish I'd paid less attention to the walking curator tour — which I made sure I could always hear — and took more pictures, especially of sculpture, which is under-represented on this page.
After all that concentrated time and effort with this grand exhibition, I wouldn't mind going back, even if I had to plot closer vantage trajectories than most swirling museum audiences allow, but it's a great and fascinating show.
Marcel Duchamp Hat Rack shadow 1964 wood
My photographs are copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
The copyright status of the museum-provided images and the copyright status of the works of art themselves are less clear. About halfway down the Wikipedia: Public domain - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia page, is a statement of the copyright legal status for images of Artwork. I read it a couple times, and I still don't understand it all.