Exhibition at MoMA examines three months of Picasso's work in Fontainebleau

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Exhibition at MoMA examines three months of Picasso's work in Fontainebleau
Installation view of Picasso in Fontainebleau, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 8, 2023–February 17, 2024. Photo: Jonathan Dorado

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art presents Picasso in Fontainebleau, a focused exhibition examining three months in a legendary artist's career, when he created an astonishingly varied body of work between July and September 1921 in the town of Fontainebleau, France. On view from October 8, 2023, through February 17, 2024, this exhibition reunites four monumental works on canvas, both versions of Picasso’s Three Musicians and Three Women at the Spring, with the other paintings, drawings, etchings, and pastels he made in Fontainebleau. Encompassing both cubist and classicizing styles, these works are presented together for the first time since their creation in Picasso’s makeshift garage studio and complemented by never-before-seen photographs and archival documents. Picasso in Fontainebleau is organized by Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Alexandra Morrison, Curatorial Assistant, and Francesca Ferrari, former Mellon-Marron Research Consortium Fellow, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death, MoMA’s exhibition is included in the international Picasso Celebration 1973–2023, with the exceptional support of the Musée National Picasso-Paris.

“Picasso’s decision to paint, virtually simultaneously and on a grand scale, MoMA’s startlingly different-looking Three Musicians and Three Women at the Spring in Fontainebleau during the summer of 1921 continues to disrupt expectations of artistic evolution and stylistic consistency,” said Umland. “This exhibition extends the Museum’s commitment to exploring new ways of seeing, thinking about, and interpreting iconic works from the collection.”

Organized chronologically, Picasso in Fontainebleau begins with a prelude to the artist´s three months in Fontainebleau. Cubist and classicizing works exhibited in Paris during early 1921 will be on view in the first gallery, accompanied by a selection of Picasso’s designs for the Ballets Russes and a related print project. As the exhibition transitions into Picasso’s time in the town of Fontainebleau, it presents his precisely dated line drawings of the interior and exterior of his rented villa, at 33 boulevard Gambetta (now 33 boulevard du Général Leclerc) in Fontainebleau, along with works on canvas, documents from the artist’s archives, and some 30 family and studio photographs, many of which are on view for the first time.

Measuring 20 by 10 feet, the passageway that connects the two exhibition galleries occupies approximately the same footprint as Picasso’s Fontainebleau studio. Featuring ghostly, to-scale black-and-white reproductions of Three Musicians and Three Women at the Spring, this space recreates the compressed environment in which Picasso worked during the summer of 1921.

The final gallery of Picasso in Fontainebleau brings together many of Picasso’s Fontainebleau works for the first time, including both versions of Three Musicians and Three Women at the Spring and five large, pastel head drawings closely related to Three Women at the Spring. Echoing the installation of Picasso’s Fontainebleau studio, the exhibition presents the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Three Musicians and MoMA’s Three Women at the Spring side by side for the first time since 1921. These two stylistically disjunctive, six-feet high paintings, which were made roughly at the same time, emphasize the interconnectedness of Picasso’s process across works in various mediums, models, and visual idioms.

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