Armory Show, International Exhibition of Modern Art. The Cubist room, Gallery 53 (northeast view), Art Institute of Chicago, March 24–April 16, 1913. On the longer wall are three of the seven Picasso artworks included in that landmark exhibition (though not in “Picasso and Chicago”).
By John P. Walsh.
The links between this art exhibition called Picasso and Chicago going on from February 20 to May 12, 2013 at The Art Institute of Chicago and the artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) as well as the centenary of the landmark 1913 Armory Show is often tenuous. From virtually the beginning of his artistic practice, bragging rights on Picasso have come to the Catalan artist. Forty years after the artist’s death at 91 years old, the media talk in 2013 revolves around American collector “firsts” associated with Picasso.
Which institution collected Picasso first? (The Art Institute of Chicago in 1923.)
Which institution collected Picasso most? (The Chicago Renaissance Society by 1930.)
Which institution had the first Picasso exhibition? (The Arts Club of Chicago in 1923.)
Which institution first had a Picasso retrospective? (The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut in 1934.)
The Art Institute of Chicago is able to put imagination aside and quote itself in Picasso and Chicago. Nearly all of the same inventory of Picasso artwork in this 2013 show were assembled and displayed in the exact same order in a previous exhibition at the museum called Picasso in Chicago held from February 3 to March 31, 1968. According to the museum director writing at that time, that exhibition had been inspired by the dedication of the Picasso sculpture on August 15, 1967, a Chicago 5-story icon that still stands in Daley Plaza. If attention is what Pablo Picasso craves, he has no worries.
Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher, Gósol, summer 1906, oil on canvas, 39 5/8 x 31 7/8 in. (100.6 x 81 cm), Signed, l.r.: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago. Picasso painted Fernande Olivier (French, 1881-1966), his mistress at the time, during a working sojourn to Gósol in the Spanish Pyrenees in the summer of 1906.
Images above: Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher (detail).
Fernande Olivier and Pablo Picasso in 1905 in Paris.
Picasso, Fernande Olivier, summer 1906, Charcoal, with stumping, on cream laid paper, Signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined), The Art Institute of Chicago.
Pablo Picasso, The Two Saltimbanques, 1905, printed and published 1913. The Art Institute of Chicago. Drypoint on ivory wove paper 120 x 91 mm (image/plate); 193 x 129 mm (sheet)
Picasso, Study for “La Coiffure,” 1905-1906. Pen and brown ink, with colored crayons and charcoal applied with stump, over graphite, on blue-gray laid paper 184 x 307 m. Signed recto, upper right, in graphite: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago. The pairs of figures are related by both involved in intimate activities, but represent two different subjects Picasso studies months apart. The first dates from 1905 and the second from 1906. The pair on the right is a study for a major painting, “La Coiffure, ” in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There are several good things about Picasso and Chicago although it doesn’t always revolve around his art. It is satisfying to know that Chicago possesses these rich resources to showcase a chronological and comprehensive Picasso show within its own collections. In these tight economic times there is a certain kudos owed to major museum curators who recognize how it can effectively display its own and nearby institutions’ holdings to produce another blockbuster show. The chronological exhibition of Chicago’s Picasso collection—and that includes works from The Art Institute of Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago and The Renaissance Society—is front loaded providing for immediate pleasures. The visitor is greeted nearly at the door by The Old Guitarist painted by Picasso in 1903-1904—a revered Blue-period painting in the Art Institute—and for the viewer to be edified by its presence is worth any exhibition’s admission price though there was no special exhibition fee beyond the price of general admission to the museum.
Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903–1904, oil on panel, 48 3/8 x 32 1/2 in. signed, l.r.: “Picasso.” The Art Institute of Chicago.
Does a front-loaded show spell overall superficiality? The answer is: yes and no. For any future Picasso show curators should find every possibility — as I am doing already for this review — to whittle away at the volume of artwork on display for Picasso and Chicago to present its interesting parts. It is precisely the show’s downsizing opportunity that intimates its shortcoming: by displaying some of the Spanish master’s later increasingly commercial and less compelling artwork produced during a lengthy and prosperous career, The Art Institute of Chicago’s holdings of 500 Picasso works in every medium begin to reveal the challenges of building a successfully qualitative collection of contemporary art even when the artist is Picasso.
Picasso, Woman with her hair up, 1904, Gouache on tan wood pulp board, 427 x 313 mm, Signed and dated recto, upper left, in blue gouache: “Picasso / 1904.” The Art Institute of Chicago.
Images above: Pablo Picasso, Beggar with Crutch, Barcelona 1904, pen, brown ink and colored crayon on paper. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Images above: Picasso, Crazy Woman with Cats (detail), early summer 1901, Paris, oil on cardboard. Amy McCormick Memorial Collection, 1942. The Art Institute of Chicago. Photograph by author. Picasso came to Paris in late May 1901 with three weeks to prepare for an exhibition at Vollard’s gallery arranged by a Catalan dealer who roomed with Picasso on the Boulevard de Clichy. Crazy Woman with Cats is one of 64 paintings and many drawings Picasso prepared for the show.
Picasso, Sketch of a Young Woman (detail), pen and brush and black ink on paper, Paris 1904, gift of Robert Allerton, 1924, The Art Institute of Chicago. Allerton, a museum trustee since 1918, began in 1923 to acquire Picasso drawings with the sole purpose of donate them to the museum. Sketch of a young woman was Allerton’s first Picasso drawing purchase and museum donation in 1923. It was purchased in Chicago from Albert Roullier Galleries.
Picasso, Portrait of a Seated Man, 1905. Black chalk on cream wove paper, laid down on cream Japanese paper, 329 x 216 mm, Signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Picasso.”Gift of Robert Allerton, 1924. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Study of Four Nudes, Paris, 1906-07, black crayon paper, Johnson Family collection. When 1906 ended, Picasso stopped painting instead filling sketchbooks for a new major composition: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907; The Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper (detail).
When Chicago in the 1920’s began its Picasso-buying frenzy another young Spanish painter twelve years younger than Picasso arrived into Paris and was immediately overtly critical of the great Picasso’s work at that time. That younger painter was Joan Miró (1893-1983) and his criticism of Picasso (more a kind of disgust)—as well as of Henri Matisse (1869-1954)—was that the pair were making all their art for their dealer. In other words, they were making art primarily for a paycheck. Such may be the inherent risk in making contemporary art that meets a market demand: the artist is tempted, after a fashion, to sell-out. Miró knew at first look—and history has proven him basically correct—that the future of contemporary painting did not rest with Picasso after about 1920. This is partly the reason why Miró turned to the “nonsense” art of the Dadaists for the future of his own painting. Keeping Miro’s judgment in the back of one’s mind at Picasso and Chicago one can see that with some notable exceptions an earlier Picasso painting—that is, from the Blue Period after 1901 to Picasso’s period of synthetic cubism until around 1920—offers cohesive artwork that contains a germ or seed of progress. The art collection in Picasso and Chicago, much of it produced following Miró’s critical judgment of Picasso, shares his problematic.
Nessus and Deianira, September 22, 1920, Graphite on tan wove paper, prepared with a white ground ,signed recto, upper left, in pen and blue ink: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper left, in graphite: “22-9-20.” Just before leaving Paris in September 1920, Picasso made a series of drawings of the Greek myth of the abduction of Hercule’s bride Deianira by the centaur Nessus. Following this, Picasso became fascinated with Greek mythology to continue to make artwork using its themes.
Picasso, Head of A Woman (Fernande), Paris winter 1909-10, brush and gray wash on paper. Private Collection. Paintings and drawings by Picasso in winter 1909-10 continued to explore Cubism as it related to the human face and figure and its surroundings.
Picasso’s studio at Horta de Ebro (now Horta de San Juan) in Spain between May and September 1909. The painting of a Head of a Woman (at left) is one of the early Cubist artworks in “Picasso and Chicago.”
Picasso, Head of a Woman, summer 1909, Oil on canvas 23 3/4 x 20 1/8 in. (60.3 x 51.1 cm), Winterbotham Collection, 1940. This painting dates to one of the most productive and inventive periods of Pablo Picasso’s career, a stay in the town of Horta de Ebro in Spain from May to September 1909. In these spring and summer months, Picasso produced artworks that rank as some of the earliest achievements of Cubism. Fernande Olivier (French, 1881-1966), Picasso’s mistress at this time, was the model for the series of heads that the artist produced.
Picasso, Bust of a Woman, late 1909, Watercolor and gouache on cream laid paper, laid down on buff laid paper, 363 x 278 mm overall; signed recto, lower left, in graphite: “Picasso (underlined)/ 09” Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Roy J. Friedman, 1964. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Head of a Woman (Fernande), fall 1909, bronze, 16 1/8 x 9 7/8 x 10 9/16 in. (40.7 x 20.1 x 26.9 cm), cast 1910, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949. This work is Pablo Picasso’s first large Cubist sculpture and represents the distinctive physiognomy of Fernande Olivier, who was the artist’s model and mistress from 1905 until 1912. Before making the bust, Picasso produced countless drawings and gouaches to explore the specific form and structure of his subject’s facial features – her hair in a coil and a topknot; a bulging jaw; a well-fined depression in the center of her upper lip. The Art Institute of Chicago. The Fernande series’ evolved from the agility of facial expression to its individual features that became fixed signs.
Four images above: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Artist and Model, Cannes, July 24, 1933, watercolor and pen and black ink on paper. Gray Collection trust.
Picasso, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, autumn 1910, Oil on canvas, 39 9/16 x 28 9/16 in. (100.4 x 72.4 cm) Gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman in memory of Charles B. Goodspeed, 1948. The Art Institute of Chicago. German-born Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) opened an art gallery in Paris in 1907. The next year he began representing Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and introduced him to Georges Braque (1882-1963). Kahnweiler championed these artists’ revolutionary experiment with Cubism and purchased most of their paintings between 1908 and 1915. Kahnweiler sat for Picasso up to thirty times for this portrait.
Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908.
Picasso, Harlequin Playing the Guitar, c. 1916, Elden collection.
Picasso, Head of Harlequin, 1916, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Head of a Woman, 1922, The Arts Club of Chicago, purchased 1926.
Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) in Picasso’s Montrouge studio, spring 1918. Olga married Picasso on July 12, 1918, at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris. On February 4, 1921, she gave birth to their son Paulo (1921-1975). After that, Olga and Picasso’s relationship deteriorated though they never divorced. Olga died in Cannes in 1955.
Picasso, Still Life, February 4, 1922, Oil on canvas 32 1/8 x 39 5/8 in. (81.6 x 100.3 cm), Dated, u.l.: “4-2-22-.” Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1953. Picasso produced a series of Cubist still lifes in 1922 that are simplified to flat planes in a patterned framework. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) bought this canvas in 1923 to add to her collection of more than 30 Picasso paintings and even more of his drawings and watercolors. This still life was Stein’s last purchase of a painting by Picasso.
Below: Picasso, Double Flute Player and Reclining Nude, October 22, 1932, pen and ink with brush and black wash and scraping on paper, Shapiro collection, 1992. The Art Institute of Chicago. In the late summer and fall of 1932, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter (French, 1909-1977), the artist’s mistress from 1927 to 1935, were together in Boisgeloup. Picasso made three drawings on the same day on a theme of lovers serenading one another.
Marie-Thérèse Walter and Pablo Picasso. Their relationship began when she was seventeen and Picasso was 45 years old and married to Olga Khokhlova.
Images above: Picasso, Minotaur and Wounded Horse, Boisgeloup, April 17, 1935, Pen and brush and black inks, graphite, and colored crayons, with smudging, over incising, on cream laid paper, 343 x 515 mm Signed recto, lower right, in graphite: “Picasso” (underlined); inscribed upper right, in graphite: “Boisgeloup–17 Avril XXXV” The Art Institute of Chicago. Picasso transmogrifies the theme of bullfighting where the Minotaur – half-man and half bull – is the aggressor in the bullring terrorizing the horse.
The Red Armchair of 1931 is hung at what is about the show’s halfway point. At this point, I might have exited. Yet where Miró’s critical judgment lags for me is that Picasso’s art is never incompetent or boring. His art is perceptibly linear and, despite its erotic themes, often contains qualities which satisfy and cleanse a critical eye. Picasso’s art is ever ancient and ever new, and distinctly European. For me, seeing a Picasso connotes a stroll in Paris or feeling a sunburn on the face after revelry and reverie along the Mediterranean coast. Quite readily the show produced these kinds of vicarious experiences as one soaked up a plethora of Picasso’s later, lesser work in utilitarian Regenstein Hall.
Picasso, The Red Armchair (detail), oil and ripolin on panel; signed, u.r.: “Picasso,” oil and ripolin on panel, The Art Institute of Chicago.
There are 250 items on display in Picasso and Chicago—and includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics— which begin to manifest Pablo Picasso’s profligate artistic genius. Picasso and Chicago may have closed, but these works in Chicago’s various cultural institutions and private collections can still often be savored with the simplicity of a museum visit. A visitor may do no better than to start with a beeline to The Art Institute of Chicago to see Picasso’s The Old Guitarist and The Red Armchair and begin one’s own new absorption and critique of the Spanish master’s work whose home is in Chicago.The show is over but some of its best parts remain on display in the museum’s permanent collection.
Picasso, Head of Woman (Dora Maar), Paris, April 1, 1939, oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm. Private collection. Maar met Picasso in 1936 at the Café des Deux Magots in Paris. Her liaison with Picasso ended in 1943.
Below: Weeping Woman I, July 1, 1937. Drypoint, aquatint, and etching, with scraping on copper in black on ivory laid paper, 695 x 497 mm (plate); 774 x 568 mm (sheet). The Art Institute of Chicago. Explaining his penchant for making portraits of his mistress weeping, Picasso explained: “For years, I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism and not through pleasure either – just obeying a vision that forced himself on me.” By the end of their relationship Picasso confessed, “I can only see her weeping.”
Below: (from left) Dora Maar, Picasso, Lee Miller in 1937.
Picasso, Villa in Vallauris, Vallauris, Feb., 4, 1951, oil on panel. 88.9 x 116.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Picasso, Large vase with dancers, Vallauris, 1950, red earthenware clay, ground painted in white engobe, 71.2 cm. Crown collection.
Picasso and Françoise Gilot (b. 1921) at Madoura pottery, Vallauris, 1953. Gilot was lover and muse to Picasso from 1943 to 1953. They had two children, Claude and Paloma. On a personal note, I met Françoise Gilot in the early 1990’s who, accompanied by her husband Jonas Sauk, was speaking at an event at the Alliance Française de Chicago.
Picasso, Portrait of Jacqueline, Mougins, Dec. 28, 1962, graphite with smudging and black ballpoint pen on paper. 34.9 x 25 cm., Gray Collection Trust.
Below: Picasso, Jacqueline, Cannes or Vauvenargues, October 17, 1959, Linocut in colors on paper, 63.8 x 53 cm., Crown collection. Jacqueline Roque was the muse and second wife of Pablo Picasso. Their marriage lasted 11 years until his death, during which time he created over 400 portraits of her, more than any of Picasso’s other loves.
Picasso and Jacqueline, his second wife. Pablo Picasso met Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) in 1953 when she was 26 years old and he was 72. He romanced her until she agreed to date him. Only in 1955, when Picasso’s first wife Olga Khokhlova died, did Picasso decide to marry Jacqueline in Vallauris in 1961. They were married until Picasso’s death in 1973.
Miró, Janis Mink, Taschen, 2006.
Je suis Le Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso, 1986, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Verona, Italy.
Picasso and Chicago 100 years, 100 works, Stephanie D’Alessandro, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2013.
Picasso in Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1968.