The show in Johannesburg features more than 80 pieces of work, including one specific painting that points directly to Africa’s influence over both artists.
Federico Freschi, dean of art at the University of Johannesburg and co-curator of the exhibit that began running toward the end of August and ends Sept. 17, noted Matisse’s love and admiration for African art, The Associated Press reported.
“He collected many African art objects, particularly masks and figurines from Central and West Africa,” Freschi said. “Matisse also collected a number of African textiles. He had a particular interest in textiles. So he collected many Kuba cloths, for example, and also various North African fabrics, particularly the sort of cotton appliqué work that is well-known in Africa, and those things find their way into his work in various ways.”
One of the paintings features a small carved wooden African figurine that Matisse purchased at a curio shop in Paris in 1906.
After bringing said sculpture to a lunch with American writer and close friend Gertrude Stein, Picasso saw and then became infatuated with the piece, Stein wrote years later.
Picasso then began collecting African sculptures and masks, which many critics say lead to his interest in African art and his development of Cubism, one of the most influential visual art styles of the early 20th century.
Sibusiso Ngwenya, an art facilitator at New Model School in South Africa who came to visit the exhibit with students, reflected on the importance of the artwork.
“We want to encourage the students to think about what they feel in response to the art and then in response to create their own artworks and their own performances,” he said.
The assortment of art collection came from the Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambresis, the town where the artists grew up, the Matisse Museum in Nice, the Matisse family and private collections and from the Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Shaunti Hlongwane, a 15-year-old student from New Model School who was able to view pieces like Matisse’s famed Jazz series, shared her reflections on the artwork.
“I like many of his paintings… They are so perfect,” she said. “The colors, I love all of the colors that he used, so he gave me many ideas when I want to paint.”