Henri Matisse

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Henry Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of Henri Matisse is a symphony of ironies. The great French painter, known for his use of color and called Fauve (wild beast) is depicted in black and white, surrounded by birds and draped by a turban. The photograph does not show energetic, vivid Matisse remembered by many of his contemporaries. Although it is taken in 1944, ten years before the master’s death, Matisse was already a broken man. In 1939, he and his wife of 41 years separated. In 1941, he underwent a colostomy, which confined him to a wheelchair. His daughter is a captive in a Nazi concentration camp. The photograph showed all these ravages. Cartier-Bresson and Matisse remained good friends–when Cartier-Bresson published his seminal book, The Decisive Moment, Matisse drew the cover for him.

Picasso with Centaur

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“Why not have him draw in the dark, with a light instead of a pencil?” mused the photographer Gjon Mili as he was on his way to the Riviera to photograph the painter Pablo Picasso. At Madoura Pottery, Mili accomplished just that; he showed Picasso some of his photographs of light patterns formed by a skater’s leaps – obtained by affixing tiny lights on the points of the skates. Picasso reacted instantly and this photo of Pablo Picasso drawing a centaur in the air,  taken in the dark with a flashlight, was born. ‘This spectacular “space drawing” is a momentary happening inscribed in thin air with a flashlight in the dark – an illumination of Picasso’s brilliance set off by the spur of the moment,’ wrote Mili in “Picasso’s Third Dimension”.