One of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) was at his most inventive between 1905 and 1945. The Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition, “Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris,” surveys the artist’s pioneering role in the development of Cubism and explores the pivotal role that the city of Paris played in the history of modern art.
The exhibition will include over 200 paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, and many others, who collectively formed a vibrant, international avant-garde group that became known as the School of Paris.
Among the major works in the exhibition are Picasso’s bold “Self-Portrait with Palette” (1906) and “Three Musicians,” (1921), a grand summation of the artist’s almost decade-long exploration of Synthetic Cubism, Léger’s monumental Cubist masterpiece “The City” (1919), Jean Metzinger’s “Tea Time (Woman with a Teaspoon)” (1911), known in its day as “The Mona Lisa of Cubism,” Juan Gris’ “Still Life Before an Open Window, Place Ravignan,” and Marc Chagall’s “Half Past Three (The Poet)” (1911).
Drawn from the museum’s collection of paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings by Picasso, and supplemented with loans from private American collections, this instillation is the third retrospective staged by the museum since 1958.
“The exhibition is extraordinary for a number of reasons,” said Timothy Rub, the museum’s George D. Widener director and CEO. “There are 214 works in the exhibition (which) speaks to the depth of the museum’s holdings in this area, that being the school of Paris over five decades of the 20th century. It also speaks of the depths of holding of works by very, very significant figures in the history of early modern art, beginning of course with the title figure Pablo Picasso, but including a number of other notable figures who spent a good deal of time in Paris and contributed to the development of this very rich and interesting story of the history of modern art.”
Although Picasso and Braque invented the new pictorial language of Cubism, with its flattened forms and multiple perspectives, artists such as Juan Gris and Fernand Léger soon made significant contributions of their own, especially to the development of what has come to be known as “Synthetic” Cubism.
“Picasso couldn’t have done it alone,” explained Michael Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who organized the exhibition. “He needed Georges Braque. He needed the kind milieu, the kind of social melting pot that was Paris in those early decades of the 20th century.”
The installation also includes a selection of photographic portraits of the poets, writers, musicians and performers who were a part of this eclectic circle, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker.
“Picasso is the heart of modern art,” added Taylor. “He’s someone who you really have to deal with. He’s the rock in front of you when think about modern art and try and reconceive it and understand it because he was such an outstanding innovator.”
“Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris” is on exhibit from Feb. 24 to April 25, 2010. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100 or visit www.philamuseum.org.