Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse with cat curled between his legs, working from his bed, (Cimiez) Nice, France.] August 1949, 3328.1992

Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse in bed working, his black cat at his feet, (Cimiez) Nice, France.] August 1949, 3329.1992

Far more interesting, both for Capa and for the viewer, are his pictures of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Every morning for a week in August 1948, while he was vacationing on the Riviera, Capa went with Picasso, Francoise Gilot, and their one-year-old son Claude to the beach at Golf-Juan, where he took some wonderful, playful pictures of the family. The following August he returned to Picasso’s unpretentious villa in Vallauris, near Atibes, with Gjon Mili, who wanted to photograph the artist drawing in the air with a flashlight. Working in a darkened room, Mili would be able to capture the ephemeral drawings on time exposures. [Mili’s photo of Picasso painting with light can be seen here.] Picasso was intrigued by the idea – and delighted with the results. [Mili’s photo of Matisse painting with light can be seen here.] Meanwhile, Capa went to Cimiez, a suburb of Nice, to photograph the seventy-nine-year old Matisse [Mili’s photo of Matisse for LIFE can be seen here] in his apartment in the grand Victorian Hotel Regina, where he was working on decorations for the chapel [Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence] of the Dominican convent in Vence. Capa photographed the artist as he worked sitting up in bed, surrounded by art, books, and cats. But Matisse was far from bedridden; Capa’s most memorable picture shows him grasping one end of a seven-foot-long bamboo pole tipped with charcoal to draw on a huge sheet of paper tacked to the wall, a working method that must have demanded considerable strength and extraordinary control.

Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse], 1949

Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse], 1949

While they were on the Riviera, Capa and Mili stayed at the house in Antibes that Irwin Shaw and his wife had rented for the summer, but they were hardly ideal house guests. The Shaws never knew when the photographers were going to show up for meals or whom they might bring home, for they often picked up girls on the beach and brought them home to spend the night. In the morning Shaw would have to steal clothes from his wife’s closet for these girls to wear so that they could leave without creating a local scandal. When objections about any of his behavior were raised, Capa would apply his Hungarian charm – and, Shaw later wrote, you would not only forgive him but also “lend him the two hundred dollars he needed to replace the two hundred dollars you had just lent him the night before and which he had promptly lost at the casino in Cannes.” Finally, Marion Shaw gave her husband an ultimatum: as much as she liked Capa, he and Mili had to go.

Richard Whelan, Robert Capa, A Biography, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985, pp. 276-7

(Capa was a cut up and Mattise was making cut outs… More Mattiseterpieces: MoMA’s Henri Matisse The Cut-Outs website.)

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1 Response to Matissesterpieces

  1. Capa love. Matisse love.

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