If there are two names in the art world that add up to as close to a slam dunk when it comes to an exhibition’s all-but preordained success, it’s got to be Picasso and Matisse. So whether the Kimbell Art Museum was looking for that veritable “slam dunk” or not, they’ve probably landed it with The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Having just opened, and running through February 16 of next year, this exhibition is setting the bar appropriately high on many fronts. It is rare indeed for as prestigious an art temple as Chicago’s Art Institute to part with so many – around 100 – works from that incredibly fertile epoch encompassing the work of Picasso, Matisse, and so many of their talented peer painters and sculptors.

And as a measure of the prestige of the Kimbell, it is the sole venue to receive this precedent-setting loan of so many master works gathered in one exhibit.

This exhibition will not only showcase the incomparable aesthetic genius of Picasso and Matisse, but further remind patrons of other grand masters of 20th century art, including Miro, Leger, and Kandinsky.

For those who fondly recall the Kimbell’s boffo 2008 show of Impressionist masterpieces, also loaned by the Art Institute, this exhibition picks up the gripping narrative by delving into the great works by European artists from the 20th century’s first half. The first murmurings of what will  soon be understood as “modern art” are displayed in works from artists spanning Europe, from France, Germany, and Italy to Spain, Switzerland, and Russia.

Clearly one of the exhibition’s highlights is ten full bodied works – each – from friendly rivals, Matisse and Picasso. And what better way to begin this artistic journey than with Picasso’s glorious, 1901 work, Old Guitarist. Along the way, Matisse will be represented by, among other iconic pieces, his imposing Bathers by a River – widely seen as Matisse’s glorious riposte to the voluble Cubist works generated by such great artists of the era as Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Leger, and, of course, Picasso.

The exhibition is so rich that it can touch on everything from Joan Miro’s crucial cycle of “dream paintings,” surrealism at the hands of Alberto Giacometti and, naturally, Salvador Dali, Russian painter. Also on display is Vasily Kandinsky’s willful rejection of all things figurative in favor of his own form of abstraction, or how Romania’s Constantin Brancusi limned so much expression from highly focused examinations of the human head, or an imperious bird.

Surely not a coincidence, The Age of Picasso and Matisse will be the centerpiece exhibition during the eagerly anticipated upcoming opening of the Renzo Piano-designed new Kimbell pavilion.

Details: The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Masters from the Art Institute of Chicago. Through February 16, 2014 at the Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie, Blvd., Fort Worth. More information: 817-332-8451; www.kimbellart.org.

 Matisse at Kimbell Art Museum

[Image: THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS)
Henri Matisse French, 1869–1954 Bathers by a River, March 1909–10, May-November 1913, and early spring 1916–October (?) 1917 Oil on canvas 102 1/2 x 154 3/16 in. (260 x 392 cm) Signed, l.l.: "Henri-Matisse" The Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1953.158 © 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]