Exhibition of Picasso Masterpieces Coming to Seattle this Fall

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Exhibition of Picasso Masterpieces Coming to Seattle this Fall
Pablo Picasso, "Le baiser" (The Kiss) October 26, 1969, Mougins. Oil on canvas (97 x 130 cm).

SEATTLE, WA.- The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is proud to announce that it will present "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris", an extraordinary exhibition of the work of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). This landmark project is scheduled to be on view at SAM Downtown from October 8, 2010 through January 9, 2011. The exhibition will present iconic works from virtually every phase of Picasso’s legendary career. Drawn from the collection of the Musée National Picasso in Paris, the largest and most important repository of the artist’s work in the world, the exhibition will feature more than 150 original works of art, including approximately 75 paintings and sculptures, complemented by an important selection of prints, drawings and photographs.

“This will be the Northwest’s first major presentation of Pablo Picasso’s work,” said Derrick Cartwright, The lllsley Ball Nordstrom Director of SAM. “ As such, it represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a large public to view these important objects in Seattle. My colleagues and I are extremely proud to be the first US venue for this traveling exhibition, which surveys the entire career of an individual who was arguably the most influential, and radical, creative force of the 20th century. "Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso", Paris promises to be a milestone not just for this great museum, but for the entire city.”

The unparalleled opportunity to present this work is possible at this time because the Musée Picasso has recently closed for renovations, allowing a global tour of this full-scale survey to travel for the first and, very likely, the only time. The presentation at SAM will be the US debut of these works which follows the Atheneum Art Museum in Helsinki, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. SAM has worked closely with Anne Baldassari, Director of the Musée National Picasso and general curator of the exhibition, to create a highly memorable exhibition that not only highlights outstanding works from its collection, but tells a compelling story about the artist’s development and undeniable impact on modern art history.

“The exhibition presents an entire sweep of Picasso’s career documenting the full range of his unceasing inventiveness and creative process,” said Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, and co-curator of the show in Seattle.

The Musée Picasso’s holdings stand apart from any other collections of Picasso’s work because they represent the artist’s personal collection–works that the highly self-aware artist kept for himself with the intent of shaping his own artistic legacy. Every major period from Picasso’s prolific output over eight decades will be represented by iconic works, including the Blue Period’s "La Célestina", (1904), the Rose Period’s "The Two Brothers", (1906), the African art-inspired "Three Figures Under a Tree", (1907-08), the "Cubist Man with a Guitar", (1911), and the classicizing "Two Women Running on the Beach" (La Course), (1922), to mention only the first quarter of his career.

The exhibition also includes highlights from the period associated with his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walther such as a quintet of Female Bust bronzes from 1931 and the portrait The Reading from 1932. Another muse, Dora Maar, is represented in many guises, from stately beauty in "Portrait of Dora Maar" to emotional wreck in "The Crying Woman", both from 1937.

Picasso’s career spanned World Wars I and II, the Spanish Civil War, and the Korean War and each conflict exerted a presence in his work. The impending chaos of World War II, for instance, is reflected in such canvases as "Man in a Straw Hat" with an "Ice Cream Cone" (1938) and "Cat Clutching a Bird" (1939), while his consistent challenges to sculptural tradition are traced with such icons as "Head of a Bull" (1942) and "The Goat" (1950).

Picasso's Long and Productive Career
One reason for Picasso’s towering reputation is his long and productive career, which began at a remarkably young age with accomplished works completed as a teen prodigy. His early period, informed by travels and travails in his native Spain and his adopted France, as well as a tumultuous and picaresque personal life, developed at a feverish pace as he devoured influences and spat out innovations one after another. The first portion of the exhibition will document these watershed moments, including his assimilation of Van Gogh in a 1901 deathbed portrait of his close friend Carlos Casagemas, (The Death of Casagemas) whose suicide threw the artist into a melancholy that partly inspired the famous Blue Period. Casagemas’ death was fueled by addiction and romantic troubles, and the heady, fin de siècle circles of artists and literary types in the midst of which Picasso too found himself in Paris and Barcelona. The show will also include his masterpiece of the Blue Period, "La Célestine" (1904).

The impoverished but ambitious artist also identified with the downtrodden and outsiders of society at this time, leading to iconic sculptures of circus performers such as the bronze "The Jester" (1905) and the Rose Period painting "The Two Brothers" (1906) made while he was closely following itinerant families of saltimbanques. Dueling influences of African art, the legacy of Paul Cézanne, the early stages of a lifelong friendly rivalry with Henri Matisse, and camaraderie with Andre Dérain and Georges Braque soon thereafter brought Picasso to the rich period in which he made his epochal "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" (1907) in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (not included in the show). Numerous studies for this great painting are included in this exhibition, including a rare wood carving, Figure (1907), which also reveals his interest in Paul Gauguin’s earlier sculptural forays in Polynesia. Picasso’s ability to borrow and synthesize ideas and forms from the past and relate them to pressing realities of his time remains one of his great legacies.

The fragmentation within these works, in which figures were often rendered in sharp planes, or anatomy was skewed in order to attempt new depictions of three-dimensionality, paved the way for one of Picasso’s greatest contributions to art history, Cubism. Again fueled by an appreciation of Cézanne and spurred by an
intense dialogue with Braque, Picasso shattered pictorial space in a way that forever changed the path of painting. The exhibition includes classic examples of Analytic Cubism, for example, "Le Sacré-Coeur" (1909-10), or several paintings of figures featuring musical instruments (1911) where subjects are subjected to faceted rendering. In his subsequent development of collage, Synthetic Cubism, images of objects are built up from disparate parts such as paper, wood, and string. Picasso’s innovations during this period had farflung influence, inspiring the Italian Futurists, Russian Constructivists, French and American Synchromists, and budding Dadaists and Surrealists.

“Picasso never rested on his laurels and abhorred any sort of theoretical summations that would explain away his work. This prompted him to always move on before any one expressive mode began to run thin,” said Michael Darling, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and co-curator for the show in Seattle.

Often, Picasso’s shifts from one stylistic mode to another were dramatic, such as in the ponderous, classicizing figures that populate his work after the conclusion of World War I. This exhibition documents this period with stellar examples such as "Head of a Woman" (1921) but also shows how quickly he moved on. As soon as four years later he entered into his Surrealist period exemplified by the grotesque "The Kiss" from 1925.

By the 1930s and 1940s, Picasso’s eclecticism and command of numerous approaches was at full flower and viewers will be treated to ricocheting efforts of virtuosity, innovation, and pathos as the world around him was thrown into turmoil. Examples included in the show range from the sumptuous, seemingly ecstatic nude portrayals of "Marie-Thérèse such as Reclining Nude" (1932) and "Nude in a Garden" (1934), to touching metaphors of war like "Man with a Sheep" (1943).

In his final decades, from the 1950s to the 1970s Picasso’s work reflected a more tranquil and ruminative attitude, addressing history, sexuality and the artist’s own mortality in numerous ways. Evocative of the style of Matisse, Picasso’s depiction of his studio in the south of France, "The Studio at La Californie" (1956), revisits a theme common throughout his career, the artist at work. Paintings from his late period including the sly self-portrait "The Matador" (1970), "Reclining Nude and Man Playing a Guitar" (1970) and "The Musician" (1972) take up concepts that are not only historically loaded, but filled with allegorical and autobiographical associations.

Seattle Celebrates Picasso
Picasso’s far-reaching collaborations and inspiration went well beyond the visual arts in his own lifetime, and his work continues to inspire creative minds in a range of fields – from composers, poets and playwrights to dance troupes, political figures and more. In conjunction with the exhibition, SAM is planning the broadest conceivable array of public programs and collaborations in conjunction with a host of institutions and organizations including the Seattle Symphony, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle Arts and Lectures and the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, among others.

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