Installation at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Highlights Artist’s Exploration of Form
BOSTON, MA (February 1, 2016)—A loan of four major works from the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland, is at the center of Visiting Masterpieces: Pairing Picasso at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). This exhibition focuses on pairing and juxtaposing 11 related works by Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), including The Rescue (1932), Seated Woman (Dora) (1938), Woman in Green (Dora) (1944) and The Rape of the Sabines (1962)—none of which have previously been on view at the MFA, or anywhere in New England. These works complement three additional loans from private collections, as well as four works from the MFA’s holdings by the artist. Groupings—four pairings and a trio—explore relationships and differences within Picasso’s treatment of the same person or story. Quotations from the artist spread throughout the exhibition give insight into his inspiration, his creativity and his motivations.
For the first time in the US, the MFA’s large canvas, Rape of the Sabine Women (1963) hangs alongside the artist’s 1962 monochrome version of the same subject, from the Beyeler’s collection. The four other groupings in the exhibition center on women throughout Picasso’s life and highlight his work across media. The exhibition pairs a painting and a bronze with the features of Fernande Olivier; two paintings and a large-scale charcoal drawing inspired by Marie¬-Thérèse Walter; an oil painting and a mixed media drawing from his years with Dora Maar; and a painting and an aquatint with the characteristic traits of Françoise Gilot. On view February 13–June 26, 2016 in the Lee Gallery, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity for Boston audiences to study the master’s range of techniques and styles, with themes including the stylistic transformation of the human figure, variation of a single subject across works and emulation of revered artistic forebears. Media Sponsor is WCVB Channel 5 Boston.
“The intimate scale of the exhibition fosters a sense of closeness with the works of art. It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore Picasso’s creative process,” said Katie Hanson, Assistant Curator for Paintings, Art of Europe at the MFA. “We have included brief passages of Picasso’s own words in the installation to give both voice and vision to his working methods. It provides a special focus to looking at a familiar and prolific artist.”
By presenting sets of related works Pairing Picasso highlights the artistic process of one of the 20th century’s great masters. Punctuating his long and prolific career, the groupings encourage close looking—-inviting viewers to contemplate the visual parallels and differences in each set. In every work, Picasso’s starting point was the human form; a motif both familiar and fascinating, and ripe for transformation.
The trio of works depicting Marie-Thérèse Walter highlights Picasso’s abstraction of the human body into sinuous lines, and his distillation of a familiar face into a distinctive profile. The bust-length Head of a Woman, Portrait of Marie Thérèse Walter (1934, Isabelle and Scott Black Collection) exhibits confident applications of paint, while in The Rescue (1932, Fondation Beyeler), layering, scraping and wiping of paint has created a thick surface suggestive of different moments in Picasso’s creative process. The third work in the grouping, the charcoal Sleeping Nude (Marie‑Thérèse Walter) (1932, Private Collection), reveals traces of the artist’s work and his changing vision of the sleeping woman in its restless lines. Made within two years of each other, these works celebrate the creative variety spurred by a single figure.
The naturalism of the painted portrait Fernande Olivier, (1905-06, MFA) shows many stylistic differences from the Cubist sculpture Head of a Woman (1909, MFA), which was made just three years later. Each also challenges expectations through its materials—the painting mimics a drawing and the weighty bronze implies motion. Picasso’s two depictions of Dora Maar, though similar in format—showing a single seated figure in a shallow space—differ markedly in their handling, scale and media. Another pair, comprised of a work from the MFA and another from a Private Collection, depicts Françoise Gilot. Made within one day of each other, the works exaggerate the physical traits of their subject. Viewers can see how the MFA’s monochrome print expands the painting’s composition, emphasizing a window-like quality that suggests a screen or window pane.
Picasso’s transformation of bodies reaches an expressive extreme in his depiction of a Classical subject: the ancient Romans’ invasion of the neighboring Sabines to abduct women of marrying age. The exhibition’s two vertical canvases of similar scale—each over five feet tall and four feet wide—depicting this theme, which is rife with anguish, achieve their intensity through differing means. The aggressive frontality of the warrior in the Beyeler’s monochrome painting (November 1962) contrasts with the inward turn of the duel in the MFA’s vibrantly colored depiction (completed in early February 1963). The energetic application of paint and areas of exposed canvas attest to Picasso’s quick execution of the Beyeler’s composition—made over the course of just two days—and heighten the drama of the subject. The MFA’s brightly colored canvas, on which the artist worked for 22 days, exudes its force through chromatic intensity, with a clash of contrasting colors. In both, the women in the foreground are trampled by the warriors’ progress, and their upturned faces and parted lips convey extreme pathos.
Pairing Picasso is the latest presentation of the MFA’s Visiting Masterpieces series, which highlights important loans, often complemented by works from the MFA’s collection. Recent Visiting Masterpieces have included Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty (2015), Gustav Klimt’s Adam and Eve (2015), Caravaggio and Connoisseurship (2014), Piero della Francesca’s Senigallia Madonna: An Italian Treasure, Stolen and Recovered (2013), and Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Master Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti (2013).
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its collection, representing all cultures and time periods. The Museum has more than 140 galleries displaying its encyclopedic collection, which includes Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–4:45 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–9:45 pm. Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and individual youths age 17 and younger. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution. MFA Members are always admitted for free. The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit mfa.org or call 617.267.9300. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.