Exhibition highlights from a year of Picasso

Half a century ago, on 8 April 1973, Picasso died at his home in Mougins in the south of France. To mark the anniversary of that event, more than 50 exhibitions of his work are taking place around the world — here are the ones not to miss

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Picasso. Artist and Model —Last PaintingsFondation Beyeler, Basel
Until 1 May 2023

Picasso’s career spanned an impressive 80 years, and even during the final decade before his death at the age of 91, he continued to work with gusto, pushing back against his ailing body. One of the subjects he often returned to in old age was the relationship between artist and model. He used it as a reflective way to explore self-representation and the creative act of making a portrait.

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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), The Painter and His Model, 1963. Oil on canvas. 130 x 162 cm. Nahmad Collection. © Succession Picasso/2022, ProLitteris, Zurich

Basel’s Fondation Beyeler has gathered together 10 of the most expressive Picasso portraits from this period — sourced from the foundation’s own collection and private loans — to investigate the artist’s relationship with some of his late sitters, and to spark questions about the role of the ‘male gaze’. For example, in his later years, was Picasso celebrating or satirising the female nude?

Picasso and PrehistoryMusée de l’Homme, Paris
Until 12 June 2023

In 1879, two years before Picasso was born, archaeologists discovered dozens of charcoal and ochre drawings of bison, horses and boar, as well as stencils of handprints, on the walls of the Cave of Altamira in northern Spain. Published the following year, they were the first pieces of art to be recognised as prehistoric, dating back some 14,000 years.

According to a widely circulated story, Picasso once visited the caves, only to emerge shaking his head and muttering, ‘We have invented nothing.’ Sadly, there is no evidence to suggest the tale is true, but it’s clear that some of his works — particularly his recurring monochrome line drawings of bulls — resemble ancient pictures that have been discovered in caves across Europe.

Pablo Picasso, Femme lançant une pierre, 1931

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme lançant une pierre (Woman Throwing a Stone), 1931. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau. Artwork: © Succession Picasso 2023

Picasso and Prehistory  brings together a selection of objects from the artist’s studio, such as animal bone assemblages, and places them alongside his sculptures, prints and paintings — including the famous abstract work composed of grey and brown organic forms, Femme lançant une pierre (1931) — to explore the connections between the Spaniard’s output and the instinctive marks his ancestors chose to make thousands of years earlier.

Picasso sculptor. Matter and bodyMuseo Picasso Málaga
9 May to 10 September 2023

It could be argued that a cornerstone of Picasso’s career was a desire to find different ways to break down forms — often, the human image.

Between bouts of drawing, printing and painting, he also did this in the third dimension, hewing models of deconstructed bodies from wood, bronze, iron, cement, steel and plaster. ‘He always watches, at all times, because all shapes represent something to him, and he sees everything as a sculptor,’ remarked his contemporary, the sculptor Julio González.

Pablo Picasso, Bañistas, Cannes, 1956

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Bañistas (Bathers), 1956. Bronze. Group of six sculptures, various dimensions. Musée national Picasso-Paris. Dación Pablo Picasso, 1973. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)/Thierry Le Mage. Artwork: © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2023

Picasso sculptor. Matter and Body, at the Museo Picasso in Málaga, the artist’s birthplace, brings together a selection of his sculptures in order to highlight how his work in the round — sometimes regarded as secondary to his paintings — is in fact an integral part of his oeuvre. Curated by the museum’s former director, Carmen Giménez, this is the first major show in Spain to tackle the topic. From Málaga it will travel to the Guggenheim Bilbao, where it will be on show from 29 September to 14 January 2024.

Young Picasso in ParisSolomon R. Guggenheim Museum,
New York
12 May to 6 August 2023

In the year 1900, Paris’s bohemian cafes, raucous nightclubs and plentiful galleries were a hedonistic draw for artists from across Europe. The 19-year-old Picasso was no exception, and in the autumn of that year he set off from Barcelona for an eight-week-long sojourn in the French capital.

The Guggenheim’s exhibition focuses on the short but brilliant burst of creativity that this trip inspired — an expressive phase that came to an abrupt end in 1901 with the suicide of Picasso’s close friend Carles Casagemas, ushering in the artist’s so-called ‘Blue Period’.

Pablo Picasso, Le Moulin de la Galette, Paris, circa November 1900

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Le Moulin de la Galette, 1900. Oil on canvas. 89.7 x 116.8 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.34. Photo: David Heald, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Artwork: © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The highlight of the show is the museum’s own work, Le Moulin de la Galette (1900), which has recently undergone conservation. It depicts the celebrated Parisian dancehall that had already been painted by Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. For his take, Picasso chose to portray a well-dressed clientele, including a woman with a sinister grin, under the tavern’s lurid electric lights, resulting in a work that brilliantly foreshadows his later character studies.

Picasso’s will. The ceramics that inspired the artistMuseu del Disseny de Barcelona
21 June to 17 September 2023

In the summer of 1957, following a visit to an exhibition of historic Spanish ceramics at the Palais Miramar in Cannes, Picasso was reported in a newspaper to have asked, ‘How is it possible that they did this before me?’

Within weeks of seeing the show, Picasso decided to give 16 of his own ceramic works to Barcelona’s Museum of Art. The donation came with a condition, however: they had to be displayed alongside its main collection.

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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Tile, 1957. Terracotta. 19.5 x 39 x 3.8 cm. Museu del Disseny de Barcelona. MCB 64659. Photo: Guillem Fernández-Huerta. © VEGAP

Today, the 16 ceramics are held at the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona, the city’s design museum, which this year is honouring Picasso’s wishes by placing them in dialogue with its collection. The exhibition will also focus on the ceramics that Picasso saw in Cannes, examining how they gave rise to his hubristic reaction and subsequent gift to the city he considered his spiritual home.

Gertrude Stein and Picasso.The Invention of LanguageMusée du Luxembourg
13 September 2023 to 21 January 2024

This September, the Musée du Luxembourg is mounting an exhibition that celebrates the relationship between Picasso and the American writer and patron Gertrude Stein.

Stein and her brother Leo moved into an apartment on rue de Fleurus in 1903, swiftly furnishing it with art by the likes of Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse and Picasso — all relatively unknown, struggling painters who sold work for the equivalent of just a few dollars at the time. Among the pair’s earliest acquisitions was Picasso’s 1905 masterpiece Fillette à la corbeille fleurie, which Gertrude kept for the rest of her life.

Pablo Picasso, Femme aux mains jointes (study for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon)

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Femme aux mains jointes (study for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon). Oil on canvas. 90.5 x 71.5 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau

Every Saturday, Stein would throw open her doors for a salon that became a haven for the writers and painters who flocked to beau monde  Paris. Her early support of Picasso in particular was crucial to his success. In fact, by 1919, Picasso was in such demand that Stein couldn’t afford his paintings any more — yet he continued to give works to her as an expression of gratitude for her loyalty.

In the upcoming exhibition, 28 of Picasso’s early works loaned from the Musée Picasso in Paris will be shown alongside a selection of Stein’s texts, shedding light on how the pair both championed Modernism in their own ways.

Picasso in FontainebleauMuseum of Modern Art, New York
1 October 2023 to 2 February 2024

In the summer of 1921, Picasso shut himself away in the garage of a rented villa in the town of Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, for three months. Working in pencil, pastel and paint, he produced a new body of work that signalled a shift in his style — in two very different directions at once.

Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians, 1921

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Three Musicians, 1921. Oil on canvas, 6 ft 7 in x 7 ft 3¾ in (200.7 x 222.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Created side-by-side within just a few weeks of each other, the six-foot-high oil paintings Three Musicians  and Three Women at the Spring  are startlingly unalike, and divided critics at the time. The former builds on Picasso’s avant-garde Synthetic Cubism period, which began around 1913 and involved using flat shapes, bright colours and elements of collage. The latter is much more academic, indebted to Paris’s 18th-century Neoclassical painters, who in turn took inspiration from Greek and Roman sculpture.

Pablo Picasso, Three Women at the Spring, 1921

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Three Women at the Spring, 1921. Oil on canvas, 6 ft 8¼ in x 5 ft 8½ in (203.9 x 174 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Emil. Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Today, both the pictures reside in MoMA’s collection, but for Picasso in Fontainebleau  they’re being reunited with other paintings, drawings, etchings and photographs created at the same time — often on the same theme — many of which haven’t been together since leaving the artist’s studio.

The result, according to the show’s curator Anne Umland, highlights how Picasso purposefully disrupted his own artistic evolution and consistency.

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Other standout shows...2023-2024

Elsewhere, the Musée Picasso in Paris is showing Picasso Celebration: The Collection in a New Light (until 27 August 2023); the Brooklyn Museum in New York has Picasso and Feminism (2 June to 24 September 2023); the Kunstmuseum Pablo Picasso Münster presents Celebrating Picasso - Artist - Human - Genius (?) (27 May to 17 September 2023); the Prado in Madrid is showing Picasso and El Greco (13 June to 17 September 2023); the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will stage Picasso: A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn (12 September 2023 to 14 January 2024); and Madrid’s Reina Sofía is hosting Picasso 1906: The Turning Point (14 November 2023 to 4 March 2024).

Main image, clockwise from top left: At Fondation Beyeler, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), The Painter and His Model, 28.3.1963. Oil on canvas. 130 x 162 cm. Nahmad Collection. © Succession Picasso/2022, ProLitteris, Zurich; At Museo Picasso Málaga, Pablo Picasso, Figure: Project for a Monument to Guillaume Apollinaire, 1928. Wire and sheet metal. 59.9 x 13 x 32 cm. Musée national Picasso-Paris. Photo: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)/Adrien Didierjean. © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2023; At the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians, 1921. Oil on canvas, 6 ft 7 in x 7 ft 3¾ in (200.7 x 222.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. Artwork: © 2022 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; At Museu del Disseny de Barcelona, Pablo Picasso, Mermaid Jug, 1957. Museu del Disseny de Barcelona. MCB 64668. Photo: Guillem Fernández-Huerta. © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2023; At Musée de l’Homme, Paris, Pablo Picasso, Picasso’s Handprint (in Sugar), 1936. Photo: © RMN - Grand Palais - Mathieu Rabeau. © Succession Picasso 2023; At Museo Picasso Málaga, Pablo Picasso, Child, 1960. Bronze with gilt patina 115 x 98 x 54 cm. Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Madrid. Photo: © FABA / Hugard & Vanoverschelde. © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2023

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