RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A traveling exhibition of essential works from Pablo Picasso’s personal collection is making its U.S. debut this week.
“Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris” will include paintings, drawings, sculptures and etchings by the artist and serves as a retrospective covering each notable artistic period of his eight-decade career.
Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the tour’s second U.S. stop, said that Picasso’s personal collection contained works the artist consciously chose to shape his artistic legacy, “and he was not a modest man.”
The touring exhibit was made possible because the Paris museum is undergoing a $28 million renovation that won’t be complete until 2012. U.S. showings will take place Friday through Jan. 17 at the Seattle Art Museum; Feb. 19 through May 15 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; and June 11 through Sept. 18 at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Picasso’s 1904 oil-on-canvas masterpiece La Celestina shows a solitary, gray-haired bordello owner with a blinded eye. Picasso painted several similar portraits during his early-career Blue Period, characterized by somber tones and marginalized subjects such as beggars and prostitutes.
The 176-work exhibit also highlights Picasso’s depictions of his numerous mistresses and muses, including Dora Maar. A 1937 portrait of the French surrealist photographer features a colorful Maar displaying flamboyant, red-nailed hands. It serves as a contrast to another oil-on-canvas portrait of Maar, who inspired his “Weeping Woman” series.
Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, 1918, depicts the Russian ballerina and Picasso’s first wife Olga Khokhlova sitting on a Spanish-design tapestry, the space around the figure left purposefully unfinished. Jacqueline With Crossed Hands, 1954, depicts Jacqueline Roque, his second wife and most-painted muse.
The show, directed by the Paris museum’s chief curator Anne Baldassari, also includes the 1911 Man With a Guitar and 1909-10 Le Sacre Coeur – prime examples of the Cubism movement, which Picasso developed with 20th century sculptor George Braque.
Also included are several Surrealist bronze heads of mistress Marie-Therese Walter, and Head of a Bull, crafted from a bicycle seat and handlebars. Late-period pieces include The Matador, a self-portrait completed in 1970, three years before his death.
The U.S. showings of the Picasso collection follow well-received stops in Helsinki, Finland, and in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.
George Shackelford, head of the Art of Europe Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, said the Musee Picasso is regarded as the most important repository of the artist’s work, and the U.S. exhibitions offer a perfect chance for American audiences to see a good sampling of it.
The retrospective also will help art lovers and casual visitors alike understand why Picasso is such a towering figure in the art world, said Matthew Affron, curator of modern art at the University of Virginia Art Museum.
“We think of the early 20th century as when everything changed as to what the rules were, what was acceptable and what to look for in a work of art,” Affron said. “The exhibit will allow people to see that he contributed to changing the rules of the game in every phase of his career.”
If You Go…
PICASSO EXHIBITION: Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris will be shown in three U.S. museums.
Seattle Art Museum, Oct. 8-Jan. 17, http://www.picassoinseattle.org/
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., Feb. 19-May 15, http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/Picasso/
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Jan. 11-Sept. 18, http://bit.ly/bhKvDW
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