(Columbus, OH) – The Columbus Museum of Art, in partnership with the Barnes Foundation, presents Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change June 10 – September 11. Curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, an independent curator and specialist in early twentieth-century European art, the exhibition explores Pablo Picasso’s work between 1912 and 1924, prior to, during, and after the tumultuous years of the First World War, when the artist began exploring both cubist and classical modes in his art.
Inspired by the Columbus Museum of Art’s Picasso Still Life with Compote and Glass, 1914 – 15 and the Barnes’s extensive Picasso holdings, Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change features some 50 works by Picasso drawn from major American and European museums and private collections. The show includes oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and four costumes the artist designed for the avant-garde ballet, Parade, in 1917. Several important canvases by Picasso’s contemporaries—including Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger, and Diego Rivera—will also be presented.
“A radical shift occurred in Picasso’s work in 1914,” notes curator Simonetta Fraquelli. “Following seven years of refining the visual language of cubism, he began to introduce elements of naturalism to his work.” This change in his production can be viewed against the backdrop of an unsteady cultural climate in Paris during World War I. Many people identified the fragmented forms of cubism with the German enemy and therefore perceived it as unpatriotic. This negative impression reverberated throughout Paris during the war and may have been a factor in Picasso’s shift in styles. However, Fraquelli states, “What becomes evident when looking at Picasso’s work between 1914 and 1924, is that his two artistic styles—Cubism and Neoclassicism—are not antithetical; on the contrary, each informs the other, to the degree that the metamorphosis from one style to the other is so natural for the artist that occasionally they occur in the same works of art.”
Included in the exhibition will be major works from the Picasso museums in Barcelona, Málaga, and Paris, including, respectively: Woman with a Mantilla (Fatma), an oil and charcoal on canvas from 1917; Olga Kholklova with a Mantilla, an oil on canvas from 1917; and Femme Assise, an oil on canvas from 1920.
The exhibition also features four costumes that Picasso designed for the avant-garde ballet, Parade, which premiered in Paris in 1917. These are: Costume for Chinese Conjurer (original), and reproductions of The American Manager, The French Manager, and The Horse. Performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with music by Erik Satie, story by Jean Cocteau and the choreography of Léonide Massine, Parade was the first cross-disciplinary collaboration of its kind. The ballet, which tells the story of an itinerant theater group performing a sideshow, or a parade, was viewed as a revolutionary approach to theater. Picasso was the first avant-garde artist involved in such a production – not only designing the costumes, but also the theater curtain and set. Included in the exhibition will be a watercolor and graphite sketch of the curtain design, and a pencil sketch of the Costume for Chinese Conjurer. Picasso drew inspiration for his designs from the modern world – everything from circuses and carousels, to music halls and the cinema. With Picasso’s strange, geometric costumes, Parade might be seen as the ultimate fusion of classical and cubist forms.
Picasso’s juxtaposition of figurative and cubist techniques can be seen as an expression of artistic freedom during a time of great conflict, and his shifts in style became a means of not repeating, in his words, “the same vision, the same technique, the same formula.” The works by Picasso’s contemporaries, such as Diego Rivera’s Still Life with Bread Knife from 1915 and Henri Matisse’s Lorette in a Red Jacket from 1917, offer further insight into the shifting cultural climate in France during this transformative period.
Managing Curator for Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change Managing Curator at the Columbus Museum of Art is Chief Curator, David Stark. Martha Lucy was the managing curator at the Barnes Foundation.
This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
About the Curators
Simonetta Fraquelli is an independent curator and specialist in early twentieth-century European art. Fraquelli has published numerous essays on Picasso including, ‘Picasso’s Retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris 1932: A Response to Matisse’ on the occasion of the 2010-2011 Kunsthaus Zurich exhibition: Picasso, His First Museum Exhibition 1932; and ‘Looking at the Past to Defy the Present, Picasso’s Painting 1946-1973’ for the 2009 exhibition Picasso Challenging the Past at the National Gallery, London. Fraquelli lives and works in Milan, Italy.
Martha Lucy is Barnes Foundation Consulting Curator and Assistant Professor of Art History at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Most recently, Lucy curated the Barnes Foundation’s exhibition, Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, Fred Wilson: The Order of Things, which was on view May 16 through August 3, 2015. Lucy lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
David Stark is Chief Curator at the Columbus Museum of Art. David Stark received his Bachelor of Arts in French from Oberlin College and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in History of Art from The Ohio State University. Most recently he has been the Director of Administration for Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago and served as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago. He has taught art history at the University of Minnesota Morris, and has held the position of Curator of Education at both the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica and the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Stark’s scholarly focus is 19th-century European art. His publications include European Painting in the Tweed Museum of Art and “Three Works in the Musée d’Orsay by Charles De Groux, Realist Master of Belgium” in La Revue du Louvre.
Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers, Inc. It will include four essays: Simonetta Fraquelli’s Double Play: Cubism and Neoclassicism in Picasso’s Art 1914–1924; Picasso and Pattern, 1914-17 by Picasso scholar Elizabeth Cowling; Picasso and Cocteau in Wartime, A Tricolored Alliance by Kenneth E. Silver, Associate Professor of Fine Arts at New York University; and Ferdinand Howald in Paris and Picasso’s Peers during the Great War by Dominique H. Vasseur, former Chief Curator at the Columbus Museum of Art.
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