TATE MODERN Until 9th September
1932 was a pivotal year in the life of Pablo Picasso, at so many levels; his family life in Paris with Olga and the children, the passionate secret relationship with Marie-Thérèse Walter, the chateau in Boisgeloup, and his first retrospective in June. Life was full of gratification, but also of uncertainties for the ever-restless artist, who had just turned 50 and
was fearing that he may be soon side-lined.
The year began with exuberant energy, inspired by the forthcoming exhibition, and by the desire to silence his critics. With the passing of the months, the mood darkened, and anxiety crept in, a reflection of the times – economic depression, mass unemployment, the rise of totalitarian regimes – and of his own private life and emotional struggles. Marie-Thérèse’s serious viral infection, contracted while swimming in the contaminated river Marne, became one of the triggers for the shift from the sensual love representations of the earlier months, to scenes of rape, rescue and tragedy in November-December.
45 years after the artist’s death, Tate Modern stages its first ever solo exhibition of Picasso’s work, with more than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. Plus, catalogues, leaflets, two sketchbooks, film footage, other memorabilia, and Brassaï’s evocative photographs of Picasso’s sculptures.
Visitors are taken in a month-by-month journey through 1932, that brings them closer to the artist’s creative processes. The strict chronological order, down to days, not just months, is interesting in two ways. First of all, it allows us to rediscover the most – or, at least one of the most – famous artist in the world, in a new light, and with a deeper understanding of his ebullient creativity, speed of execution and relentless hard work. It is also in sheer contrast with Picasso’s own vision of chronology, i.e., he shunned it, as if he didn’t see his artistic evolution on a timeline, but as a sort of web of recurring, yet fluent themes. His simultaneous space angles working also at a time level. We don’t know, for instance, whether he dated his works at the start or at completion, which sometimes happened many years later. Similarly, he drew in his sketchbooks without a time sequence, but following some other internal criteria.
Picasso took full control of his retrospective exhibition in June 1932. He mixed up works from different periods, without providing any dates. It is, therefore, a bizarre conundrum that chronology should help us unravel the mind of an artist who went out of his way to ravel it, or, at least, who firmly believed in synchronicity. Yet, it does work.
Thanks to an unprecedented range of loans from collections around the world, including the Musée national Picasso-Paris, other international museums, as well as works held in private hands, this exhibition reunites some of Picasso’s greatest works for the first time in 86 years, including some that are very rarely shown.
First published on the East Finchley Open Artists April 2018 Newsletter - Click HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.