MADRID.- The exhibition entitled Picasso: In The Studio, shows an overview of the artist's oeuvre based on the different studios where he worked and lived.
The exhibition brings together nearly 80 canvases, 60 drawings and prints, 20 photographs and more than a dozen of the artist's palettes which show how Picasso's studio became the centre of gravity of his entire creative universe, the place where art and life were interwoven in his work.
Picasso: In the Studio contains pieces from around 25 prestigious public and private institutions. Many of the works were loaned by private collections and have rarely been publicly exhibited, making this show a unique opportunity to enjoy them. The exhibition has also been made possible thanks to the support of major museums in Spain and abroad, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Indiana University Art Museum, the Phillips Collection (Washington, DC), the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), the Tate (London), the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art , the Israel Museum (Jerusalem), the Bridgestone Art Museum (Tokyo), the National Museum of Modern Art (Kyoto), the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts (Moscow), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid) and the Museu Picasso (Barcelona).
The show opens with the famous Self-portrait with Palette from 1906 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) and closes with another self-portrait from 1969, Homme au tabouret, whose only public showing was in the first exhibition held at the Palais des Papes d'Avignon in 1970. These two works, in which Picasso depicts himself as a painter, gazing fixedly at the viewer, are separated by more than 60 years of artistic activity, during which the artist worked at different studios in the Bateau-Lavoir, Boulevard de Clichy, Boulevard Raspail, La Boétie, Boisgeloup, La Californie and finally Mougins. In every case, his studio became a place for experimentation and a stimulus of reflections on the artist's work and ritual in pictorial tradition. His studios became "interior landscapes", as Picasso called them, inner sanctums that chronicle the history of his stylistic and iconographic mutations.
The Studio: An Experimental Laboratory
From the 1920s on, the studio theme became the core of Picasso's creative universe. Still lifes opened up to the outside world, acting as a nexus between the studio and the landscape seen through the open window framing the composition. This luminous Mediterranean landscape became the classicist counterpoint to Picasso's earlier still lifes of sand and oils, with their strong emphasis on plastic experimentation. Guéridon devant une fenêtre ouverte (1919) and Open Window on the Rue de Penthièvre (1920) exemplify the transition from Cubism to classicism, styles that Picasso would use interchangeably from this moment forward.
The Model in the Studio: Between Classicism and Surrealism
Picasso's return to classicism occurred in the 1920s, after his trip to Italy to design the set for Diaghilev's ballet Parade. The studio became a laboratory where Picasso searched for new formulas to harmonise his Cubist experiments with the classicism of later years and the new attitudes that Surrealism suggested to him.
In 1927 he met Marie-Thérèse Walter, who would come to embody the artist's renewed vitality and passion in his works. A new interpretation of the female figure emerged at this time: the voluptuous curves of womanhood took on different identities, becoming sinuous still lifes in the studio, and the artist recreated his lover in countless interior and exterior landscapes.
During this period, in his studio at the Château Boisgeloup, Picasso turned his attention to the theme of the sculptor's studio, which found an outlet in the Vollard Suite prints. He also produced numerous sculpted heads that were later transferred to paper and canvas, such as The Painter and His Model (1933) and Young Woman with Mandolin (1932).
Skulls and bulls' heads resurfaced in the still lifes that Picasso created during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. The painter offers a glimpse of his intentions by using the vanitas device, a time-honoured tradition in Spanish art, in a manner reminiscent of great masters like Zurbarán and Sánchez Cotán, but also through his jumbled female bodies, as we see in Woman Sitting in Red Armchair (1939). These works contrast with the positive, joyful aspects of his pieces inspired by Marie-Thérèse, and with the tranquillity emanating from many of the drawings and oils he produced from the 1950s onwards.
Return to the Mediterranean: A Parody of Art
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Picasso spent his summers on the Côte d'Azur. In 1949 he purchased several properties in Vallauris, and in 1955 he acquired Villa La Californie in Cannes. In 1958 he bought the Château de Vauvenargues in Aix-en-Provence, and in 1961 he moved to Mougins, where he passed away in 1973. During those years, the light and colours of the Mediterranean became increasingly prominent in his work.
At Vallauris, Picasso turned to modelling. His pottery and many of the figures from this period express joy and happiness, conveying his love of nature, the sea, the beach, the open air and the sand.
Yet at the same time he was also creating very different works, laden with irony and menace. In 1953, after his separation from Françoise Gilot, Picasso created a series of 180 drawings on the theme of the studio and the model. This suite, published by Michel Leiris under the title Picasso and the Human Comedy, is an almost obsessive exploration of the relationship between the artist and his model and, by extension, between the artist and his art, his painting. This is no longer the laid-back, laughing sculptor of the Vollard Suite; old age has reared its head, and reflections on the passing of time become another motif in works from this period.
We also see this in the painter depicted in the pieces made at the main floor of La Californie, the villa he shared with Jacqueline Roque, his new model and the subject of many of his canvases. In 1957 Picasso set up another studio on the second floor at La Californie, in a room overlooking the Bay of Cannes, and once again turned back to the old masters, to Velázquez, undertaking an intense, obsessive analytical exercise revolving around Las Meninas.
The Painter and His Model: 1961-1972
The theme of the painter and his model made a strong comeback in the 1960s. In the studio, Picasso explored every possible variation on this theme, always with the same essential elements: the palette, the model, a large drape framing the space and, of course, the painter, Picasso himself. Throughout his career, the artist identified with many of the characters depicted in his works: the sculptor of the Vollard Suite, the Minotaur, the harlequin... Now, in these final years he appears as an old man, a musketeer or even Velázquez. The voyeur is now an elderly painter, and the model has become a "monster". Time has done its work, and the artist's vision is now become a vestige of that time.