Master inspirations: a survey of Picasso's six muses at Vancouver Art Gallery

Picasso room with frames and walls
A new exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery surveys Picasso’s relationship with the six influential women in his life
(Image credit: press)

A new exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) offers a unique perspective on Picasso’s relationship with the women in his life.

'Picasso: the Artist and his Muses' is remarkable in its consolidation of the historical and photographic archive of Picasso’s wives and lovers, from Fernande Olivier to Jacqueline Roque. While there have been other exhibitions examining Picasso’s relationships (notably 2014’s exhibition 'Picasso & Jacqueline: The Evolution of Style' at New York’s Pace Gallery), this is one of the first to focus on all six women who were his long-time partners and 'muses'.

Curated by Katharina Beisiegel, deputy director of Art Centre Basel, (a city known for its Picasso collections and home to Herzog & de Meuron, designers of the new VAG) the exhibition aims to show the 'pictorial morphology' of Picasso’s relationships with the six women. In doing so, the curator hopes to 'empower' the women as active participants in his art, rather than mere passive objects of his desire.

With works on loan from 35 different collectors, and with full cooperation from Picasso’s family and foundation, highlights include early sketches of Fernande that show the beginnings of Picasso’s cubist tendencies; new photographs of former ballerina Olga Khokhlova; the 1939 Reclining Woman Reading, a portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter contrasted in its rounded voluptuous lines to the angular, fragmented portrait of Dora Maar he painted on the same day; and the 1941 nude of Dora Maar that seems obviously influenced by her experiments in double exposure/split image photography.

Also present is the famous portrait of Françoise Gilot (the only woman who dared leave Picasso, mother of Paloma and a living, working artist) Woman With a Yellow Necklace. The black spot on the left side of her face is not a birthmark, but rather a cigarette burn 'branding' by the jealous Picasso.

The cosy domesticity of his life with Jacqueline – as evidenced in the 1971 double portrait Man and Woman – contrasts with her role as 'gatekeeper' to the artist: not only did she protect his precious art making time from fans and collectors, but also barred contact with family members from previous liaisons.

The VAG exhibition offers both a deeper understanding of the osmosis between Picasso and his muses and a treasure trove of on loan works by the 20th century’s most renowned artist. The show also speaks to the gallery’s goal of offering not only contemporary Canadian art, but as articulated by senior curator Ian Thom – who helped coordinate the arduous task of shipping the works to the rather remote West Coast city – 'bringing the best of the world to Vancouver.'

Picasso women reading

Reclining Woman Reading, 1939. Courtesy Musée Picasso, Paris. © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016). © RMN-Grand Palais / Art. Resource, NY

(Image credit: J.G. Berizzi)

Picasso pictorial morphology

Curated by Katharina Beisiegel, deputy director of Art Centre Basel, the exhibition aims to show the 'pictorial morphology' of Picasso’s relationships

(Image credit: press)

Picasso claude and paloma

Claude and Paloma, 1950. Vancouver Art Gallery. Courtesy Wanda Group. © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016)

(Image credit: Trevor Mills)

Picasso woman's head

Woman's Head (Fernande), 1909. Courtesy Portland Art Museum, Oregon, Helen. Thurston Ayer Fund. © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016)

(Image credit: Portland Art Museum)

Picasso empower the women art

The curator hopes to 'empower' the women as active participants in his art, rather than mere passive objects of his desire

(Image credit: Portland Art Museum)

Woman With a Yellow necklace

Pictured: Woman With a Yellow Necklace, May 31, 1946. Courtesy: Private Collection. © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016)

(Image credit: Patrick Goetelen)

Also present is the famous portrait of Françoise Gilot (the only woman who dared leave Picasso, mother of Paloma and a living, working artist). Pictured

Woman Dora Maar

Bust of a Woman (Dora Maar), 1938. Courtesy Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966. © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016)

(Image credit: Cathy Carver)

Nu assis dans un fauteuil

Nu assis dans un fauteuil (II), 1963. Private collection. Courtesy Halcyon Gallery. © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016)

(Image credit: Halcyon Gallery)

20th century’s most renowned artist

Courtesy Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, Gift of Carey Walker Foundation, © Picasso Estate/SODRAC (2016)

(Image credit: Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton)

The VAG exhibition offers both a deeper understanding of the osmosis between Picasso and his muses and a treasure trove of on loan works by the 20th century’s most renowned artist. Pictured: Seated Nude, 1922.

INFORMATION

’Picasso: the Artist and his Muses’ is on view until 2 October. For more information, visit the VAG website (opens in new tab)

ADDRESS

Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6Z 2H7

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604.662 4719