Monday, April 11, 2016

Picasso Portraits exhibition at NPG to highlight his approach to portraiture

An exhibition of Picasso Portraits will open at the National Portrait Gallery on 6 October (until 5th February 2017). It will include over 75 portraits by the artist in all media, ranging from well-known masterpieces to works that have never been shown in Britain before. The exhibition has been developed in association with the Museu Picasso, Barcelona.
The exhibition will surprise and confront one’s preconceived ideas of what a portrait should be and how a portrait by Picasso ought to look like.’Bernardo Laniado-Romero, Director, Museu Picasso, Barcelona
This will be the first major exhibition in the world of Picasso portraits in 20 years - since the 1996 Picasso and Portraiture: Representation and Transformation show, curated by William Rubin, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Grand Palais, Paris. That exhibition focused on the biographical and on the people in Picasso's life. As such it drew no distinction between proper portraits and drawings and paintings (eg reclining nudes) which happened to involve one of his muses. It was a much bigger exhibition as a result.

This new exhibition - of some 75 works - will be much more interesting in that it addresses the question not asked or answered by the New York exhibition - "what is Picasso's approach to portraiture?".  The curator is Elizabeth Cowling, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Edinburgh.

Picasso never painted on commission and hence his portraits were never required to flatter or tell a story of a life. There was no requirement for interesting backgrounds!  Instead he painted only those people he knew well and over time as his relationships developed - and waxed and waned - his approach to his portrayal of each individual changed.

Instead of a biographical focus, it will focus on the shift in styles and the type of approaches used by Picasso when creating portraits over time.

  • Portraits within this context will be ones which are supposed to be about the people who are the subject of the drawing or painting. 
  • It will exclude paintings which are paintings of people but occur within the context of paintings which are not portraits e.g. they are a symbolic response or bigger idea such as in Picasso's Weeping Woman which like Guernica is a response to an atrocity.

All phases of the artist’s career will be represented, from the realist portraits of his boyhood to the more gestural canvases of his old age. Indeed the exhibition will demonstrate the complete portfolio of his skills, methods and techniques in relation to the development of a portrait. 

Who knew he was skilled at caricature - or that he did several naturalistic drawings of the individuals he caricatured in advance of the caricature?

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (autumn 1910)
Oil on canvas, 39 9/16 x 28 9/16 in. (100.4 x 72.4 cm)
Pablo Picasso, 1910;
Drawings and paintings to be included in the exhibition include:
  • the extraordinary cubist portrait from 1910 of the German art dealer and early champion of Picasso’s work, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, loaned by the Art Institute of Chicago (see above); 
  • a 1938 portrait of Nusch Eluard, acrobat, artist and wife of the Surrealist poet Paul Eluard
  • a group of revealing self-portraits 
  • portraits and caricatures of Picasso’s intimate friends, lovers, wives and children - including Guillaume Apollinaire, Carles Casagemas, Santiago Rusiñol, Jaume Sabartés, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, Fernande Olivier, Olga Picasso, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Picasso
  • Portraits and caricatures inspired by artists of the past – Velázquez and Rembrandt among them – with whom he identified most closely.

The exhibition has important loans from the artist’s heirs, private collectors and various important galleries in Europe and the USA. Those institutions which are lending paintings include:

  • The Museu Picasso, Barcelona is lending most generously to the National Portrait Gallery. 
  • the British Museum; 
  • Tate; 
  •  Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; 
  • Musée national Picasso, Paris; 
  • Centre Pompidou, Paris; 
  •  Musée national d’art moderne de la ville de Paris; 
  • Museum Berggruen, Berlin; 
  • Fondation Hubert Looser, Zurich; 
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York; 
  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; 
  • Art Institute of Chicago; 
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art and 
  • the National Gallery of Iceland. 

Innovation on ticketing - £5 Fridays

A new special ticket offer and learning events will will be introduced as a result of funds from the exhibition’s sponsor Goldman Sachs.

  • every Friday morning throughout the run of Picasso Portraits, the first 100 tickets will be £5. 
  • a wide ranging Learning programme linked to the exhibition is also supported by the sponsor

PICASSO PORTRAITS at the National Portrait Gallery: 6 October 2016 -5 February 2017
Sponsored by Goldman Sachs
Tickets with donation: Full price £19 / Concessions £17.50
Tickets without donation Full price £17 / Concessions £15.50 (Free for Members and Patrons) or 020 7321 6600
£5 Fridays with Goldman Sachs: The first 100 tickets for every Friday morning during the exhibition are just £5
Museu Picasso, Barcelona (17 March–25 June 2017)

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