Thursday, April 21, 2016


The National Portrait Gallery is to stage a major exhibition of portraits by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) this autumn.

Picasso Portraits (6 October 2016-5 February 2017),  in association with the Museu Picasso, Barcelona, will include over 75 portraits by the artist in all media, ranging from well-known masterpieces to works that have never been shown in Britain before.

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, autumn 1910 by Pablo Picasso, 1910; Art Institute of Chicago
   Copyright: Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2016; 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

The latter include the extraordinary cubist portrait from 1910 of the German art dealer and early champion of Picasso’s work, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, loaned by the Art Institute of Chicago;

and from a private collection the exquisite portrait executed in 1938 of Nusch Eluard, acrobat, artist and wife of the Surrealist poet Paul Eluard.

 Woman in a Hat (Olga) by Pablo Picasso, 1935; Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art modern  Copyright: Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2016 Photo: Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Rights reserved;

All phases of the artist’s career will be represented, from the realist portraits of his boyhood to the more gestural canvases of his old age. It is the first large-scale exhibition devoted to his portraiture since Picasso and Portraiture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Grand Palais, Paris in 1996.

Portrait of Olga Picasso by Pablo Picasso, 1923; Private Collection  Copyright: Succession Picasso/DACS London,  2016; 

Because Picasso did not work to commission and depicted people in his intimate circle, he enjoyed exceptional freedom as a portraitist and worked in different modes as well as many different styles. Formal posed portraits coexisted with witty caricatures, classic drawings from life with expressive paintings created from memory reflecting his understanding of the sitter’s identity and character.
The exhibition includes a group of revealing self-portraits as well as portraits and caricatures of Picasso’s friends, lovers, wives and children.  Guillaume Apollinaire, Carles Casagemas, Santiago Rusiñol, Jaume Sabartés, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, Fernande Olivier, Olga Picasso, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Picasso are among the people visitors will encounter.  Complementing these images of Picasso’s intimates are portraits and caricatures inspired by artists of the past – Velázquez and Rembrandt among them – with whom he identified most closely.

The Museu Picasso, Barcelona is lending most generously to the National Portrait Gallery.  Other lending institutions include: the British Museum; Tate;  Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Musée national Picasso, Paris; Centre Pompidou, Paris;  Musée national d’art moderne de la ville de Paris; Museum Berggruen, Berlin; Fondation Hubert Looser, Zurich; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Iceland.  The exhibition also benefits from important loans from the artist’s heirs and other private collectors.

The copiously illustrated catalogue provides an original, broadly based account of Picasso’s portraiture and analysis of every work on display.  Among the issues explored in detail are the artist’s sources of inspiration, differences between his approach to portraying men and women, and the complex motivation behind his switches of mode and style and defiance of representational norms.

Picasso Portraits is curated by Elizabeth Cowling, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at the University of Edinburgh.  Her publications include Picasso: Style and Meaning  (2002) and Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose (2006). She has co-curated several exhibitions, including Picasso Sculptor/Painter (1994), Matisse Picasso (2002–3), and Picasso Looks at Degas (2010–11). 

From The Guardian:

In one portrait a young Pablo Picasso paints himself as a well-dressed teenager in the 19th-century realist tradition;

Self Portrait 1972, 
in another, aged 90, he has a cartoonish skull looking like a boulder about to topple from the mountain.

“It is a remarkable work, looking in the mirror and looking death in the face,” said art historian Elizabeth Cowling of Self Portrait 1972,which will be part of a major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this autumn.
The work, from a private collection, is in stark contrast to the self-portrait Picasso painted in 1896, aged 14. That polarity of styles will feature over and again in what is the first major exhibition of Picasso portraits for 20 years...

 Self-Portrait with Palette by Pablo Picasso, 1906.
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 Self-Portrait with Palette, 1906. Photograph: Succession Picasso/DACS