Of all the exhibitions I was lucky enough to view over the Summer this wonderful Picasso show was truly the most brilliant. His work in the early 1930s is sculptural yet elegant, light of composition and tender in colour. Picasso’s deep devotion to Marie Therese Walter is a huge part of the exhibition but the show indicates that the modelling she carried out was more utilitarian many of us first thought. I started to feel that Picasso used Walter as a perfect model for a busy period rather than her being the worshipped beauty so often presumed. It was a far more pragmatic a relationship than I realised. After the retrospective at the Galerie Georges Petit in June 1932 it is interesting to see how few paintings were completed in utter devotion to his muse. Indeed the ‘Nude Woman in a Red Armchair’ was rushed and not of typical quality. However, no question, Walter’s power over the artist is clear when we see paintings such as ‘Le Rêve’ or the early March pictures including ‘Girl before a Mirror’.
I was naive in presuming it would be an easy show to view: full of sumptuous pictures with little angst and little art historical heft. I was wrong. The show is a success as it indicates the real suspense and the real genius in Picasso putting together a body of superlative work for his first retrospective. One slight negative was that it proved a little too quiet about Picasso’s sculpture; with only one room that I can recall really focusing on that Boisgeloup period. Sculpture was so vital to Picasso’s 1930s painting as it slowly fades from the flatness of analytical Cubism becoming more voluminous and sculptured. The large, bulbous heads are a reaction to Cubism as their solidity contrasts so heavily with the flat, compositional, Cubism of his youth.
Nothing compares, in my view, to seeing perhaps four or five of the most important paintings by Picasso in one exhibition. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and cannot recommend it enough to those yet to see it. Many congratulations to the brilliant Achim Borchardt-Hume and Nancy Ireson for putting it together and avoiding the pitfalls of most blockbusters by keeping it both focused and fascinating.
© 2018 Estate of Pablo Picasso