Under the title “La Comédie du Modèle” the Matisse Museum in Cimiez takes a closer look at the role of the model in the two painters’ works

Whether as friends or as professional rivals, the relationship between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso was one of the most fruitful artistic exchanges of the 20th century. They also both took a similar approach to the models they featured in their works, allowing them to become a subtle and fascinating mirror reflection. These “jeux de miroirs” were a key driver of a new perception around the representation of the body, and self-reflection on the creative act. For both Matisse and Picasso, the theme of the “painter and his model” could therefore be considered self-portraits in disguise.


This is the angle under which the Musée Matisse presents its flagship summer exhibit through September 29. Museum director and curator Claudine Grammont decided to train the lens on the model rather than the artist. Over 150 paintings, sculptures, and graphic art work examine five different modalities from Project to Transformation, Desire, Ownership and Transcendence, showing the model’s gradual morphogenesis to become one with its master.

The exhibit is part of the Picasso-Méditerranée programme, a cultural initiative spearheaded by the National Picasso Museum in Paris. Between 2017 and 2019, a group of 70 some institutions showcases the Spanish painter’s “stubbornly Mediterranean” work, occasionally in context with a major local artist like, in this case, Matisse. If Musée Matisse participates in this programme, it is to emphasize its own deep connection to all things Mediterranean … but of course also the deep bond between the two artists who defined the 20th century like few others. Both men frequently crossed paths in Nice, Vallauris, and Vence, finding inspiration in their environment and in each other. This is the first time since 2002 that the two painters’ works share an exhibition.

Matisse & Picasso expo poster

Spanning from a first meeting in 1906 to the time of Matisse’s death in 1954, initial mutual dislike gave way to grudging respect for the other’s artistic genius and eventually turned into genuine personal appreciation and inspiration, which Matisse described as “artistic brotherhood”. Some of this evolution can also be found in the works on display at the Niçois museum. Independent of this exhibition, the excellent Pablo Picasso blog retraces in great detail the complexity of the two men’s relationship.

You have 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. ” — Pablo Picasso

Accompanying events at the museum include piano recitals, dance performances, and Round Table discussions.

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Musée Matisse
164, avenue des Arènes de Cimiez
06000 Nice

Tel: +33 (0)4 93 81 08 08
Email: musee.matisse@ville-nice.fr

Visit in French: Friday and Saturday at 2.30 pm / in English: Sunday and Monday at 2.30 pm / “family” in French: Wednesday at 2.30 pm – Price of the guided visit: € 6 / Free for children under 13 years

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Lead image © RIVIERA BUZZ, all rights reserved; poster courtesy Ville de Nice

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