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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Springs of modern art
Self-portraits of Matisse (left) and Picasso (both 1906)
The exhibition stresses the two artists' close ties
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By Patrick Jackson
BBC News Online

Something very special has taken form in London's Tate Modern gallery this year with the Matisse Picasso exhibition.

A century after they turned around the concept of the painting, these two great artists are back on show together in all their freshness.

The perfectly lit, easy rooms of the Tate have been turned into the pages of the artists' parallel lives, painting matched by painting in a celebration of the best in 20th Century art.

Matisse: Red Interior: Still Life on a Blue Table (1947)
Matisse's colours flame out of the walls
But if you were never to know who these artists were, you might simply come away with the sense of having been happily reminded of all the good things in life.

Matisse was born first and Picasso long outlived him, but their careers moved side by side for about 50 years, as both freely admitted.

Contemporaries tended to regard them as opposite poles of the art world, Matisse the master of colour and Picasso the great symbolist.

This exhibition will hardly shake that impression though it does stress throughout that the two men admired and took inspiration from each other's work.

But the joy here is of seeing how two great minds could take the same subject and work it through in their own way.

Reflected music

Matisse's answer to the Mona Lisa, his Portrait of Madame Matisse, hangs on the same wall as Picasso's Portrait of a Young Girl, like nothing so much as a riot of wildflowers.

Another room juxtaposes the deep, calm beauty of Matisse's Lorette in a Green Robe with Picasso's firmly earth-bound Seated Woman.

Picasso: Acrobat (1930)
Picasso's work is full of circus images
One revelation for me is the number of portraits by Matisse - but no surprise when you consider the exhibition draws on US and French museums as well as the Tate.

This is work to drink in, whether soaking up the heat in Matisse's The Moroccans or sipping at Picasso's Serenade, where music itself seems to have slipped into the room.

It has been said that every good exhibition has to spring a surprise - for me that has to be Picasso's Figures at the Seashore, the erotic strength of which appears to overwhelm everything around it.

These are pictures to please the heart and you come away missing them, wishing they could hang there together in the Tate for good.

Matisse Picasso runs at the Tate Modern from 11 May until 18 August, then moves to Paris and finally New York.

Radio 4's Mark Lawson
"An ambitious show"
See also:

08 May 02 | Arts
Art giants meet at Tate Modern
29 Dec 01 | Europe
Turkey takes down fake Picassos
25 Jan 02 | Reviews
Paris stakes its claim
29 Jun 01 | Reviews
Lasting impression
10 May 02 | Reviews
Matisse Picasso: Your views
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