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Boasting a hundred paintings, drawings, sculptures and other artworks, this exhibition embraces every period of Picasso’s career, paying particular attention to one aspect of his ouvre: the constant transfigurations in his portrayal of the human figure. Most of the exhibited works have been generouslyloaned by the Musée national Picasso-Paris, which, with some 5000 works, preserves the largest Picasso collection in the world. The collection was bequeathed to the French state by the artist’s heirs, and contains works from every period of his activity, as well as 200,000 documents – letters, periodicals and photographs – from Picasso’s private archive.
Visitors to the show are invited to take an informal journeythrough Picasso’s distinctive creative method, focusing on the series he produced, his recurring motifs, and the landmark moments of breakthrough. The central theme is the evolution of Picasso’s approach to figural depiction as he progressed through a career in art that spanned more than seven decades. In every period, the most prominent role was played by the human form, whether in the shape of the woman, the sensitive and passionate human, the thinker, the artist, the socio-political player, or the élite star. The changes in the way Picasso modelled his figures reveal the very essence of his art: his incessant innovation of form can be traced through his paintings – which make up the lion’s share of the exhibition – as well as his prints and drawings, his sculptures and ceramics, and his film and photography.
The exhibition is divided into seven sections. The first unit presents Picasso’s Early Periods, the decade leading up to 1906. The first work in the exhibition is the realistically styled Barefoot Girl of 1895, painted when the artist was just fourteen years old. This period is characterised by lyrical paintings and moral scenes, the melancholy of his Blue Period, and portraits of poets and artists. This is followed by the completely new and revolutionary pictures of his Cubist period. Picasso’s output from the years 1907-1916 is shown under the title of Cubist Deconstruction and Reconstruction, featuring studies he painted for one of his most outstanding masterpieces, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, as well as one of the most valuable loaned items at the exhibition, his Portrait of Ambroise Vollard from the Pushkin Museum, Moscow. After 1917 – as the title of the next section, Reinventing the Classical Line, implies – Picasso’s painting returned to the purer lines of classical painting, beautifully modelled bodies, simpler drawings, and the world of nudes, dancers and ballet. The years between 1925 and 1936 are presented under the title of Surrealist Metamorphosis. This period witnessed the birth of European Surrealism. New themes and forms appeared at this time in Picasso’s art as well, including the half-man, half-monster Minotaur. The section titled War Figures is devoted to works created between 1937 and 1945, most of which were born under the shadow of war. In the post-war years, Picasso made renewed journeys of discovery into the world of primitive art. He had spent most of his life searching for the simple, primeval form, and had previously taken a great interest in the art of the Far East, believing it to be closer to the origins of art. Works that fit into this approach have been brought together in the section entitled Return to the Origins. The last unit in the exhibition explores one of Picasso’s lifelong subjects, The Artist and his Model. In these works, made between 1954 and Picasso’s death, the artist quoted from works by the Old Masters, and dealt with the eternal theme of the relationship between man and woman.
The vast majority of the artworks on show – 74 in all – have come from the collection of the Musée national Picasso-Paris. These are supplemented by selected masterpieces kindly loaned by other major, global museums: The Israel Museum of Jerusalem, the Beyeler Foundation of Basel, the Kunstmuseum Bern, the Pushkin Museum of Moscow and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. Visitors can also see three paintings from the Ludwig Museum of Budapest, and an exquisite selection of etchings from the Collection of Prints and Drawings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.
The exhibition catalogue – published in Hungarian and in English – contains essays by eminent French and Hungarian scholars, who offer a variety of perspectives on Picasso’s artistic method. The catalogue covers all the works displayed, and is the first publication to print the documents in the Parisian museum archive that are connected with Hungary.
Curator of the exhibition: Emilie Bouvard (Musée National Picasso-Paris), co-curator: Ferenc Tóth (Museum of Fine Arts of Budapest)
Cooperating partner: Musée Picasso Paris