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On Aug. 30, 1906, a 36-year-old Matisse sent a letter to his friend, Georges Rouault. Inside, he conveyed his strong impressions of Africa—notably, his awe at the deserts—where he had just visited. The two had been friends in art school (the École des Beaux-Arts), and this letter for just one of many they would come to exchange with one another over the course of half a century, until Matisse’s death in 1953.
Although Matisse and Rouault approached their works with completely different styles, they shared the pride and sense of responsibility of artists who sought to live up to the legacy of the celebrated French painters from the past. They lived through a period during which France became a beacon of inclusivity with its progressive immigration policy, and later experienced great strife and misfortune during the Second World War. Throughout, they remained steadfast in depicting their own personal truths through their art. Two prominent examples of this are Matisse’s La France and Rouault’s Jeanne d’Arc—both works were created at the dawn of war, and feature confident women symbolizing a free France.
The exhibition will display the correspondence between the two artists and their families, as well as the works that were created at the time the letters were written. These include important early works by Matisse, such as The Bottle of Schiedam, as well as the original oil-color plates that Rouault produced for Divertissement—one of his most important print series. Visitors will have the opportunity to observe the friendship between Matisse and Rouault with the aid of 140 items, some of which are coming to Japan from France for the first time.