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This animated short turns a bar brawl into a beautiful celebration of art history

This animated short turns a bar brawl into a beautiful celebration of art history

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The Annecy International Animated Film Festival, going on right now, is an annual event that showcases some of the best animated movies of the year. Now, as a lover of animation, this is the sort of thing I eat up. Dozens of animated shorts and features are shown off, each using any number of techniques. It's the sort of place where Google Spotlight Stories like the new Rain or Shine can be unveiled. It's awesome.

Picasso and Matisse were friends with an intense rivalry

Let me give you an example. Paris' Gobelins L'École de L'Image (or Gobelins School of the Image) makes a regular showing at the festival. This year, the school debuted Au Lapin Agile, or At the Agile Rabbit, wherein Pablo Picasso gets into a stunningly beautiful bar fight with Henri Matisse. The short is wonderful on its own, but the characters and the setting are incredibly significant, providing a small glimpse into the lives of the people involved. It's really about conflict creating great art.

The first thing you should know is Picasso, a Cubist, and Matisse, a Fauvist, were friends but also intense rivals. As much as they enjoyed one another's company, they often got into fierce debates about their work. Hence the fight. Second, Au Lapin Agile is both a famous painting Picasso painted in 1905 and the real-world cabaret of the same name where both the painting and this short take place:

Au Lapin Agile

Pablo Picasso: Au Lapin Agile

If you dig into the painting itself, you learn more about how serious their rivalry was. Playing the part of the harlequin is Picasso, and next to him is his lover Germaine Pichot. Pichot would later model for Picasso's iconic 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, or The Young Ladies of Avignon. (I happen to think she's also in the short at about the 37-second mark, but I could be wrong.) But critics argue that that painting wouldn't even exist without Matisse, who completed Le bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life) just the year before. Both paintings shocked art lovers at the time, but Picasso won more notoriety by pushing the envelope further, and just about killed the Fauvist movement in one stroke.


Henri Matisse: Le bonheur de vivre


Pablo Picasso: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon

This short is just under two minutes long, but you get so much out of it. It's too bad about that bartender, though. He's got a real mess on his hands.