An expert on the rivalry between two of the greatest painters of the twentieth century, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, has published a new translation of a book written on the Cubist painters almost 100 years ago.
Professor Peter Read of the University of St Andrews has published a new English translation of the French writer Guillaume Apollinaire’s book The Cubist Painters, which was first published in 1913.
Apollinaire was one of the twentieth century’s most important art critics and poets. He was also a playwright and novelist, and he invented the word ‘Surrealism’. He recognised Matisse and Picasso as the greatest artists of his day, and was unusual in his defence of them both at a time when most critics were frankly hostile, and the rest took sides, inclining towards either one artist or the other.
“From 1906 onwards, Matisse and Picasso were great rivals, at the cutting edge of the European avant- garde, each watching the other’s every move,” said Professor Read.
“Their work places them among the greatest figures in Western art, but this status has not always been widely recognised. Before the First World War, they encountered widespread hostility and incomprehension, particularly in the French press. The few dealers, collectors and critics who supported them at that time tended to take sides, promoting either Matisse or Picasso. Mainly, however, they just attracted flak. They were considered a lot more scandalous than, say, Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst in Britain today.
“Apollinaire organised and wrote the catalogue for the first Matisse-Picasso exhibition, in Paris in 1918 – in a fierce battle over aesthetic values, he courageously defined and promoted the individual genius of both Matisse and Picasso.
“They have since become mythical figures, and it was Apollinaire’s writings which established the images of Matisse and Picasso that would be propagated by later writers and the mass media,” he said.
The relationship between Matisse and Picasso has been fully explored for the first time by a major exhibition on the two artists, first at London’s Tate Modern, and now at the Grand Palais in Paris. Last month, Professor Read was invited to Paris by the French Ministry of Culture to give a public lecture at the Grand Palais to explain the early relationship and rivalry between Matisse and Picasso, and Apollinaire’s role defending and promoting their work. In the same month, he gave public lectures on similar topics at the Spanish Cultural Institute in Manchester and at the University of Manchester.
Professor Read, Head of the University’s Department of French, is an expert in 19th and 20th Century French literature and Modern Art, and he has an international reputation as a lecturer and writer on Apollinaire and Picasso, Cubism and Surrealism. He is particularly interested in the ways in which literature and art interconnect, and the relationships between artists and writers.
His most recent publication is a translation and critical edition of Apollinaire’s The Cubist Painters, first published in Paris in 1913. The book is often quoted and referred to by British and American writers and critics, but this is the first new translation of the book since 1944. Professor Read’s version is a facsimile of the 1913 first edition, including the original illustrations, and is accompanied by a substantial essay, ‘Apollinaire and Cubism’, which provides critical commentary on the text and a survey of Apollinaire’s career as art critic.
Guillaume Apollinaire, The Cubist Painters / Peter Read, Apollinaire and Cubism. Published by Artists- Bookworks, Sussex, 2002. ISBN 0 946 311 12 9. £20.00 / $33.
NOTE TO EDITORS: PROFESSOR READ IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW AFTER 12PM TODAY (THURSDAY 5TH DECEMBER, 2002) – PLEASE CONTACT HIM DIRECT ON 01334 463649 OR EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org
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