MALAGA.- Pack-animal, weapon of warfare, element of the bullfight, graceful circus acrobat, fighting stud, harmless wooden toy, winged Pegasus... The horse appears constantly in the work of Pablo Picasso, from the time he painted The Little Yellow Picador after attending a bullfight in Malagas La Malagueta bullring in 1889, right up to his latter years in the 1960s, in Mougins (France), where he died in 1973.
The Picasso. Horses exhibition brings together over fifty works: oil paintings, drawings and engravings are displayed alongside ceramics, a delicate paper cut out silhouette, and a copy of the stage costume designed by the artist for the famous production Parade, by the Ballets Russes. The collection enables viewers to discover the symbolic importance of the horse in Picassos work, as well as the many meanings he gave to its figure and the wide range of techniques he employed.
The works are grouped together according to different themes, such as the sketches he made in his youth, bullfighting, the circus, the horse as a mythological creature, and war, amongst others. Visitors will have the chance to view a fine selection of works which include outstanding drawings such as Boy leading a Horse (1906), Naked Horseman (1919), The Rape (1920, courtesy MoMA), and Bullfight (1934). As the curator Dominique Duppuis-Labbé explains, the highlights of the exhibition are Picassos works on paper, as most of the oeuvre in which he depicted horses was produced on this support.
Many of the artworks on display belong to private collections are have rarely been shown in public. Works from public collections have been lent by the Picasso Museum in Barcelona; the Musée Picasso and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Tate Gallery, London; the University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection; MoMA Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Phillips Collection, Washington, amongst others.
Classical tradition and the everyday context
The Picasso. Horses exhibition also includes the illustrated book Los proverbios (The Proverbs), by Francisco de Goya, whose engraving Una reina del circo (A Queen of the Circus), is also on show. Alongside these is the illustrated book La caballeriza de Don Juan de Austria, (The Stables of Don John of Austria), based on 16th-century drawings by Jan Straet. This juxtaposition of classical art, with which Picasso was well acquainted, and modern art, allows visitors to establish interesting connections between the two ways of depicting the same figure.
The exhibition also contains photographs of the cities in which the artist spent his childhood and youth, such as Malaga, Barcelona and Paris, where horses were an everyday part of life at a time when motorcars were not yet in widespread use and villages and cities were entirely dependent on the work of the thousands of horses that walked the streets alongside humans.