Pablo Picasso was not only a great artist but also a master of self-dramatization. His face is at least as well known as his outstanding oeuvre. All of the leading 20th-century portraitists photographed Picasso - and some of these portraits went on to become icons.
In the exhibition "MemyselfandI. Photo Portraits of Picasso" Museum Ludwig is showing some 250 photographs by such artists as Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lee Miller and Man Ray. This is the first time the question of the conflict between Picasso's desire to control how he was portrayed and the creative demands of his portraitists has been addressed in an exhibition. International loans and some 40 pivotal works from Museum Ludwig
's own collection allow for a comprehensive and compelling exploration of this theme.
Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, when Pablo Picasso was leading a Bohemian lifestyle in Montparnasse, and continuing on to his latter years in the South of France, this large-scale survey traces the various stages in the artist's career. Classic portraits and staged studio scenes are juxtaposed with snapshots and a few very private moments. Picasso recognized early on the possibilities offered by the medium of photography, using it in his own work but above all skillfully exploiting it as a tool for bolstering the cult of his own personality. With careful calculation - so it seems - these photographic portraits convey the image of the artist as impassioned, strong-willed, virile creator. Nevertheless, Picasso's own strategic staging does not always play the dominant role in these works. The exhibition cleverly reveals the very individual stamp of the portrait artists themselves, while making palpable the tense relationship between Picasso as client and the various photographers' own pursuit of creative autonomy and originality. In a remarkable number of cases, Picasso cultivated close relationships with his portraitists and permitted them a certain degree of intimacy. This closeness resulted in many images that capture the artist in unusual and moving scenes. Picasso's embracing of photography was therefore not merely a means of putting on a show, but also gave him a unique method for looking inward, for self-contemplation. The artist always found photography, in its function as a medium for memory and retrospection, more congenail for purposes of self-study than a glance in the mirror.
The seven female photographers featured in the exhibition also bring up the question of the feminine view of Picasso: What happens when a woman makes a picture of Picasso? Is there a difference between the feminine and masculine photographic viewpoint? The portraits created by the female artists tellingly attest to their disparate relationships with the sitter. Lee Miller, for example, photographed the artist over a period of 36 years, for the first time in the summer of 1937, when the two met. Mme d'Ora, nearly the same age as Picasso, succeeded at taking an unusually relaxed picture of the artist, while Dora Maar by contrast - Picasso's longstanding lover - scratched the negative of an early image to create for him a kind of dark halo. An image of Dora Maar's head can be seen here time and again in diverse pictures: the sculpture Picasso made of her in 1941 accompanied him for many years. Today this plaster head is in the collection of Museum Ludwig.
It is in an effort to make these correspondences and manifold relationships evident for viewers that Museum Ludwig is presenting its important Picasso collection in a new constellation to coincide with the show "MemyselfandI. Photo Portraits of Picasso." This special situation allows for an extraordinary encounter with the work of Picasso in original and as photographic reproduction.
Museum Ludwig offers here an extensive overview of the artist's career that elicits new and unusual insights, making the dazzling personality of Pablo Picasso tangible in all its many facets.
Artists: Rogi André, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Brassaï, René Burri, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim, Lucien Clergue, Jean Cocteau, Denise Colomb, Robert Doisneau, David Douglas Duncan, Yousuf Karsh, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Herbert List, Dora Maar, Mme d'Ora, Willy Maywald, Lee Miller, Gjon Mili, Inge Morath, Arnold Newman, Roberto Otero, Irving Penn, Julia Pirotte, Edward Quinn, Man Ray, Willy Rizzo, Gotthard Schuh, Michel Sima, Horst Tappe, André Villers