A major exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso opened at Tate Modern earlier this month, charting the life, loves and career of perhaps the world’s most famous artist. Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy is the first solo exhibition for the artist at Tate Modern, and will include over 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures created during this pivotal year, which explore the themes and subjects which fascinated not only the artist himself, but scores of devotees during his active years, and many decades after his death in 1973.
CECIL BEATON, PABLO PICASSO, RUE LA BOÉTIE, 1933, PARIS. © THE CECIL BEATON ARCHIVE AT SOTHEBY'S.
The exhibition will reunite three portraits of Picasso's 'Golden' muse Marie-Thérèse for the first time since their creation over five intense days in 1932, dubbed by Picasso his "year of wonders". It is this fervent obsession that characterised Picasso’s creative bond with his muses. Perhaps the most arresting work on display is Le Rêve (The Dream), a sensual and voluptuous study of the 22 year-old at a time when her relationship with Picasso was at its pinnacle. Many photographs and letters from his archive will be shown alongside these intimate portraits.
What is the reason Picasso remains one of the most searched-for artists on Google? Is it his ability to convey sadness, desire, rage and humour, often in one work? Or perhaps it is his deft reinvention of visual codes: he was a founding figure in the Cubist movement, which at the time was a radical shift towards abstraction that shocked many. Whilst some of his most famous paintings, such as Three Musicians (1921), are now considered masterpieces, at the time of their creation this new direction was initially met with criticism and scrutiny. What is evident to the present day, is that Picasso will always have power to inspire and enthral.
PABLO PICASSO, LE RÊVE. © SUCCESSION PICASSO/DACS 2018.
The appetite for works by Picasso shows no signs of waning: the recent sale of Picasso's arresting portrait of Marie-Thérèse – Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) (1937) – at Sotheby's in London was the first time this painting was offered at auction: sparking a prolonged bidding war that ultimately saw the hammer fall at £49 million. Painted just months after Picasso's magnum opus, Guernica, the canvas was accompanied in the sale by two further portraits, Tête de femme (1963) which fetched £6.4 million and the heroic Matador (1970), which sold for £16.5 million. A collection of Important Picasso Ceramics will also go on sale online on the 20 March, allowing another opportunity to acquire one of the artist’s exquisite pieces. The highlight is the Tête de femme couronnée de fleurs, the only editioned ceramic ever signed by Picasso’s hand.
PABLO PICASSO, FEMME AU BÉRET ET À LA ROBE QUADRILLÉE (MARIE-THÉRÈSE WALTER), 1937. © SUCCESSION PICASSO/DACS 2018.
Whilst his subject matters are varied and diverse, Picasso is particularly well known for his portraits of women. And to be more specific still, his attention was focused on the muses that played a deeply significant role in his life. These women were not merely models for the artist; he had relationships with many of the subjects of his paintings, the inner workings of which were often played out on canvas. As the exhibition's curator Achim Borchardt-Hume enquires: "How can you get close to Picasso as a person? How can you get beyond the myth?" He goes on to explain what visitors to Tate Modern can expect: "Picasso famously described painting as 'just another form of keeping a diary'. This exhibition will invite you to get close to the artist, to his ways of thinking and working, and to the tribulations of his personal life at a pivotal moment in his career."
PABLO PICASSO, LE REPOS, 1932. © SUCCESSION PICASSO/DACS 2018.
Picasso has long captivated viewers with his unique descriptions of human nature: energetic and luminous, beautifully proportioned and imbued with the kind of tragedy that only love can induce. The exhibition will reveal a man very willing to share his private emotional journey — at times joyful and at times fraught — with an audience of millions.
Curated by Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions with Nancy Ireson, Curator, International Art, Laura Bruni and Juliette Rizzi, Assistant Curators, Tate Modern.
Organised in conjunction with the Musée Picasso, Paris, The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy is on view at Tate Modern in London.