Arts & Entertainment

Art exhibit in Washington DC explores young Picasso’s Blue Period

By Patricia de Arce

Washington DC, Feb 25 (EFE).- Pablo Picasso was an ambitious 19-year-old searching for his place in the world and in art when depression, poverty and grief had a striking impact on the color of his palette.

That so-called Blue Period from 1901 to 1904, when the young Spanish artist mainly produced monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green, is now being explored in a new exhibition in the United States capital.

The Phillips Collection, the US’s oldest modern art museum, is co-organizer along with Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario of “Picasso: Painting the Blue Period,” an exhibition that marks the culmination of a series of celebrations marking that Washington DC-based cultural institution’s 100th anniversary.

Phillips says on its website that at the heart of the exhibit is “new scientific and art historical research undertaken” on the three Blue Period paintings in the those two museums’ collections: “The Blue Room” (Paris, 1901) from The Phillips Collection and “Crouching Beggar” (Barcelona, 1902) and “The Soup” (Barcelona, 1903) from the Art Gallery of Ontario.

“These studies form the technical foundation of the exhibition, establishing context for these works with particular attention on the underlying hidden compositions and motifs newly revealed beneath each work,” the museum adds.

It says the exhibition will feature more than 70 of Picasso’s paintings, sculptures and works on paper, as well as works by French and Spanish artists such as Auguste Rodin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and El Greco that he studied before and during his Blue Period.

The suicide of Picasso’s friend, Carlos Casagemas, marked the start of that period, with his work “Evocation. The Burial of Casagemas” clearly evoking one of the most recognized religious-themed works in art history – El Greco’s “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz,” which also will be displayed in the exhibition.

“He was a sponge,” the associate curator for research at The Phillips Collection, Susan Behrends Frank, said while showing Efe details of Picasso’s works that reveal some of his influences.

Another work prominently featured in the exhibition is “The Blue Room,” the third work by Picasso to be purchased in the US and one acquired in 1927 by collector Duncan Phillips, the Washington DC museum’s founder.

That work is the best example of Picasso’s first Parisian period.

But other works in the exhibition better express the artist’s melancholy during that period of his life, including two oil on canvas paintings – “The Dead Woman,” which Picasso painted from memory after seeing a female corpse in a morgue; and “Crouching Beggar.”

They are prime examples of a series of works featuring women in conditions of poverty and homelessness that he painted upon his return to Barcelona, when the older, medieval part of the city was filled with industrial protests and destitution.

But Picasso also paid homage to women in the roles as mothers and caregivers, best exemplified by the oil on canvas “The Soup,” in which a woman with bowed head hands a bowl to a young girl.

Behrends Frank said the exhibition is a “historic” moment for The Phillips Collection because it is the first monographic exhibition on Picasso that museum has organized.

Open to the public between Feb. 26 and June 12, the exhibition concludes in a room that features some of the first works of his ensuing Rose Period, which lasted from 1904-1906 and coincided with his happy relationship with French artist and model Fernande Olivier. EFE


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