2003-03-01 / Community

Notes from the High C’s

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
by Sharon Gabriel

If you haven’t yet been to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in Long Island City to see the Matisse/Picasso exhibit, you are missing a wonderful experience.

Last weekend the RMAC sponsored a trip to see this wonderful show. By bus and car we traveled through the rainstorm on Saturday and thought we would probably be the only ones there because of the weather. Little did we know. When we arrived, people were lined up at the door waiting to get in. Since we had arranged tickets for a group beforehand, we were ushered right in soaking wet and all.

This temporary space for MOMA, since their Manhattan museum is under renovation, is a large warehouse that has magically been turned into a museum. In addition to Matisse/ Picasso their regular exhibits are also available.

Matisse and Picasso were impressionist painters and were both friends and rivals throughout their careers. If one painted a particular type of scene you could be sure that in a year or two the other would paint something similar. The audio-phone you could rent explains what you are looking at.

Matisse painted in very vibrant colors while Picasso for the most part painted in a much bolder darker style and their personal lives also showed this difference. Matisse, born in northern France in 1869, dressed like a banker and lived as a member of the middle class. Picasso, on the other hand, was very bohemian. Born in Malaga, Spain in 1881, Piccaso started painting as a teenager and was taught by his father. At the age of 14 the family moved to Barcelona where the young Picasso became part of the bohemian lifestyle, which stayed with him throughout his lifetime.

Picasso and Matisse met in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century, and it is said that they probably met in the apartment of the well-known Gertrude Stein. Though wary of each other at the beginning, they became friends and when Matisse showed Picasso a mask from the Congo, Picasso, within a year, painted "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon," drawing on African imagery. The painting was ugly and Matisse hated it and all through their lives there was this rivalry.

There is a portrait of his wife that Matisse painted that is one of my favorites. However, the eyes are dark and staring and it is said that Mrs. Matisse was very upset and did not like the picture at all. Judge for yourself when you visit the exhibit.

Picasso first came into view about 1907 and thought of his art as autobiographical. He was very emotional and thought to be very narcissistic. Though married to his first wife for almost forty years, he had several mistresses, and his paintings showed his displeasure when they left.

Matisse, on the other hand, was involved with the world and while he painted throughout the day, Picasso painted at night. So while both were impressionist painters, both had very different lives.

Both men were said to be apolitical until the Spanish Civil War that started shortly before World War II, when Picasso persuaded Matisse to contribute to the cause. Picasso painted his mural of the Nazi bombing of Guernica during the Civil War, and while living in occupied Paris during WWII he was visited by some Nazi soldiers who brought a postcard of the painting to Picasso. They asked him, "did you do this?", to which Picasso replied, "no, you did."

Matisse, on the other hand, was apolitical and his answer to the Nazis was to print bright pictures filled with desirable women, red rooms and things more civilized.

Matisse died in 1954 and Picasso in 1973.

To learn more about the stories and the paintings of these two giants of twentieth century impressionism, you must visit the MOMA exhibit, which will run through the middle of May.

By the time we left the exhibit the rain had stopped, and we went on to our next stop, which was a wonderful special dinner, arranged by Danny himself, at Danny’s Szechuan Restaurant in Howard Beach. If you have never been there before, treat yourself to a wonderful ambiance and delicious food.

A special thank you to Geraldine Chapey for the use of her Trinity Senior Services bus that transported our friends and members to an outstanding exhibit and thank you to our President, Barbara Eisenstadt for planning this event.


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