In the spring of 1954, Picasso met the young Sylvette David in Vallauris on the Côte d'Azur. She embodied the ideal of beauty typical of that era ‒ tall in stature, with long, blond hair bound in a pony tail ‒ and inspired the painter to create a series of portraits. For months, he experimented in front of the model with various styles and techniques. With seeming effortlessness, Picasso varied his approach from realistic depictions to cubist abstractions of the same pictorial subject. With brush and pencil, Picasso created close-to-nature likenesses and complex abstractions of Sylvette. Arising at the same time were folded metal sculptures painted in black and white.
Already in 1955, the Kunsthalle Bremen
acquired a typical example from this unique series and now ‒ sixty years later ‒ is presenting the first exhibition devoted exclusively to these works, with important loans from throughout the world. The series comprises more than fifty works consisting of drawings, paintings, metal sculptures, and ceramics.
Photography by David Douglas Duncan, Alexander Liberman, Arnold Newman, François Pages, Edward Quinn and André Villers document the sessions in Picasso's studio and the relationship between artist and model. The exhibited photographs and works of art offer insights into Picasso's creative process as well as the Zeitgeist, fashion and glamorous lifestyle on the Côte d'Azur during the 1950s.
The Sylvette series is contextualised through a number of works documenting Picassos work and style during this decade. Picasso met Sylvette at a critical moment of his artistic career and personal life. His relationship with Françoise Gilot ended in September 1953, causing a personal and creative crisis. In the summer of 1954 he met Jacqueline Roque who was to become the artists companion until the end of his life. The exhibition presents a variety of related portraits of Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque as well as works on the theme of painter and model, framing the Sylvette series within the wider exploration of creativity, desire and progress of time.