Miriam Cosic is a Sydney-based journalist and author.
Henri Matisse (1869–1954), a pioneer of Fauvism, was the undisputed leader of the avant-garde in early-1900s Paris when a cocky young Spaniard, 12 years his junior, appeared on the scene.
Matisse had grown up in a wealthy family in the north of France and was studying law when his mother gave him a paintbox to beguile his convalescence from appendicitis. He was 20 and immediately decided to become an artist, appalling his father. Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) was the son of a painter and professor of art in Málaga who encouraged his talent. By the time he was 20, he was already leaving behind a precocious skill in traditional representation. His dour “Blue Period” had begun.
Both artists were experimenting with perspective, believing they were furthering the aims of their hero, Paul Cézanne. When Matisse and Picasso met in Paris in 1906, they began to circle,...