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Looking at the Paintings of the Young Picasso

  • Pablo Picasso - La Vie (detail), 1903
January 21, 2019
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

At the age of just twenty, the rising genius Pablo Picasso embarked on a quest for new themes and forms of expression, immediately refining them to a pitch of perfection. Between 1901 and 1906, he painted essentially monochromatic paintings in shades of blue or pink, only occasionally warmed by other colors. The first major stages of the artist’s work, they came to be known as the Blue and Rose Periods and are considered central to his entire oeuvre.

The upcoming exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler will explore these two periods which were a critical moment in his career, paving the way for the epochal emergence of Cubism. Titled The Young PICASSO – Blue and Rose Periods, the exhibition will bring together the masterpieces of these crucial years, presented together for the first time in Europe. It includes some eighty paintings and sculptures loaned by renowned museums in Europe, the USA, Canada, Russia, China and Japan, supplemented by further outstanding work from private collections, some of which will be presented in public for the first time in many decades.

Arlequin assis, 1901, Autoportrait, 1901
Left: Pablo Picasso – Arlequin assis, 1901. Oil on canvas, 83.2 x 61.3 cm. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase Mr. and Mrs. John L. Loeb, Gift 1960 © Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource / Scala, Florence / Right: Pablo Picasso – Autoportrait, 1901. Oil on canvas, 81 x 60 cm. Musée national Picasso-Paris © Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau

The Blue and Rose Periods

In the artistic pursuit of young Pablo Picasso, one artistic revolution followed another, in a rapid succession of changing styles and visual worlds. In this period, the artist moved from a high-keyed palette with Pre-Fauve accents to the quasi-monochromes of the “blue period”, to the pink tones of the “period of circus performers and harlequins”, and the ochre variations of Gósol.

Paintings from the Blue and Rose periods are today regarded as the finest and most emotionally compelling examples of modern painting, and are counted among the most valuable and sought-after works in the entire history of art. Painted in Spain and France, these bodies of work have a universal appeal and validity. They explore existential themes such as life, love, sexuality, fate and death.

Famille de saltimbanques avec un singe, 1905, Acrobate et jeune arlequin, 1905.
Left: Pablo Picasso – Famille de saltimbanques avec un singe, 1905. Gouache, watercolour and ink on cardboard, 104 x 75 cm. Göteborg Konstmuseum, Purchase 1922 © Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo: © Göteborg Konstmuseum / Right: Pablo Picasso – Acrobate et jeune arlequin, 1905. Gouache on cardboard, 105 x 76 cm. Private collection © Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich

The Chronological Approach

Chronologically structured, the exhibition explores Picasso’s early painting career through examples of his treatment of human subjects. In the phase dominated by the colors blue, from 1901, he reflected his experience of relative poverty and instability, observing the material deprivation and the psychological suffering of people on the margins of society such as beggars, street urchins, the frail and the blind. After settling in Paris in 1905, he started focusing on jugglers, acrobats and harlequins.

While staying for several weeks in mid-1906 in the Spanish village of Gósol, he created a profusion of paintings and sculptures uniting classical and archaic ideals of the body. The increasing deformation and fragmentation of the figure, apparent in the pictures which were painted subsequently in Paris, heralds the emergence of the new pictorial language of Cubism.

Femme en chemise (Madeleine), 1904–1905, La Vie, 1903
Left: Pablo Picasso – Femme en chemise (Madeleine), 1904–1905. Oil on canvas, 72.7 x 60 cm. London, Tate, Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933 © Succession Picasso / 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo © Tate, London 2018 / Right: Pablo Picasso – La Vie, 1903. Oil on canvas, 197 x 127.3 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Donation Hanna Fund © Succession Picasso / ProLitteris, Zurich 2018 Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art

Pablo Picasso Exhibition at Fondation Beyeler

The exhibition The Young PICASSO – Blue and Rose Periods will be on view at Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland from February 3rd until June 16th, 2019. It is being organized by the Fondation Beyeler in collaboration with the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris, and the Musée National Picasso-Paris, where it will be shown in a modified form before traveling to Basel. The show at the Fondation Beyeler is curated by Dr. Raphaël Bouvier, Curator at the Foundation.

In terms of organizational effort and cost, this is the highest-caliber exhibition project in the history of the Fondation Beyeler. Years of preparation have been devoted to the presentation, which is certain to be one of Europe’s cultural highlights in 2019. The works on display are all major attractions in the museums from which they have been assembled.

Picasso – Blue and Rose Periods: Trailer

Featured image: Pablo Picasso – La Vie (detail), 1903. Oil on canvas, 197 x 127.3 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Donation Hanna Fund © Succession Picasso / ProLitteris, Zurich 2018 Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art. All images courtesy Fondation Beyeler.