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"You have to be able to picture side by side everything Matisse and I were doing at the 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."
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) are the acknowledged twin giants of modern art, between them having originated many of the most significant innovations of twentieth-century painting and sculpture. This film is an encounter with the two pioneers, two adventurers in painting, who opened new frontiers.
In spite of their initial rivalry and their very different temperaments, each came to acknowledge the other as his only true equal. They developed a close and complex relationship. FranÃ§oise Gilot, Picasso's companion from 1945-53 and the mother of his children Claude and Paloma, was party to their meetings and their friendship after the Second World War when they became increasingly important to one another both personally and artistically. She has written of them: "They were as complementary as red and green and as opposite as black and white... intense mutual curiosity opened the door to their friendship. Each of them wanted to know the whys and hows of the creative force of the other."
Gilot is one of the contributors to this film, together with Claude Picasso, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, Jacqueline Matisse-Monnier, Matisse's biographer Hilary Spurling and art historian Pierre Daix. Intimately connected with the artists, their eyewitness accounts provide fascinating insights.
With archive footage and photos and a wealth of examples of their work, the documentary traces the separate paths Matisse and Picasso followed, looks at their points of contact, and sheds light on how the genius of each artist nourished that of the other. Their unique characters and approaches to creativity are discovered in the details of their lives, their loves and the testimony of their art. Matisse said, "I want an art of balance, of purity, that neither harasses nor worries. I have chosen to keep torment and worries inside me and only to paint the beauty of the world," while Picasso declared, "The viewer must be wrenched from his torpor, shaken by the throat, made to recognize the world he lives in and for that you first have to take him out of it."
From the time they first met in Paris, in 1906, in the studio of Gertrude and Leo Stein, to the ends of their lives in Provence, Matisse and Picasso directly and indirectly fed off each others artistic sensibility and found solace in the knowledge that they held their obsession with painting and the isolation of their genius in common with another.