Matisse - Once Again

Henri Matisse is underestimated by almost everyone and commonly viewed as Picasso’s inferior when discussing paradigm shifting innovations in painting during the early years of the twentieth century.  This is a shame and it is not at all accurate.  This misconstrue comes from Gertrude Stein who bore a grudge toward Matisse for remaining socially, emotionally aloof from her and her cozy circle.  One can easily assert that Matisse fully grasped and experimented with the paradigm-destroying features of Cezanne’s late work: non- mimetic drawing, flattened, democratized picture plane, creating form with color, unpinned station point, simultaneity, warped linear perspective etc.  Matisse’s bold experiments with simultaneity occurred from 1901 through 1920 before his languid odalisques but for the first seven years of the century Matisse was bravely taking most of the arrows for the modern movement while Picasso was dallying in his lachrymose pastiche of Puvis de Chavannes (blue and Rose periods) waiting for the smoke to clear, waiting for the Indians to leave the building.  Once the rabid fervor over modern painting calmed down to a mild, gut-churning roar, Picasso along with his wife Braque make their appearance with their cogent abstraction of all things late Cezanne - Cubism and carry all of the glory of bold, earth-shattering innovation to the army of young painters, sculptors and architects in Paris in 1910.  Cubism is a shorthand for seven years of Matisse’s experiments with Cezanne’s innovations with some tribal motifs added for dramatic effectIt was Picasso’s bande that included the greatest writers  of the time, avante- garde pitchmen,  Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Cocteau (later) who launched the myth that Picasso was the heavy lifter for twentieth century artistic innovation.  This along with Henri Matisse’s self-immolating remark about wanting to make “pictures for a tired working man to enjoy while stretched out on his sofa” - a remark made after ten years of fierce battle - who wouldn’t want to rest up a bit.  Picasso had a p.r. machine to expand the perception of his particular contributions and Matisse did not.  The situation is similar to the settlement of the New England Western Addition (present day Ohio) during the early nineteenth century.  The men who fought Indians, cut trees, surveyed the land, platted new townships i.e. those who did the brutal heavy, dangerous work went bankrupt allowing the following generation of speculators to make a killing.  Matisse is the true pioneer of modern painting and Picasso is clearly a latecomer although a potent and important one.  Abe Lincoln was a latecomer to Indiana but an effective member of the community.  Cubism was simply easier to grasp, more transferable than the early oeuvre of Matisse and the Fauves.  The foot soldiers of the Parisian avante- garde could traipse through Picasso’s studio and see all they needed in order to grasp Cezanne.  Picasso and Braque’s Cubism is Cezanne in a pill.