April 8, 2023, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (Malaga 1881 – Mougins 1973). Thus the year will represent a global tribute to his work and his artistic legacy, spreading through some fifty exhibitions and celebrations held by museums, galleries, and cultural institutions in Europe and North America. To mark the anniversary, France and Spain have agreed to form a bi-national commission meant to oversee and support an exceptional program of exhibitions. One of the main events is the Center for Picasso Studies opening at the Musée National Picasso in Paris, in the historic spaces of the renovated Hôtel de Rohan.
The various tributes to Picasso will enlighten the artistic sources of inspiration for his developing style through his deep knowledge of masters such as El Greco, Goya, Velázquez, and Poussin, as well as the dialogue he held with his contemporaries, such as Joan Mirò and Henry Matisse, leading to the legacy and the artistic influence of Picasso’s work on younger artists, up to our days.
The history of twentieth-century art, de facto, could be written as a series of tributes to Picasso: he invented Cubism, which inspired fellow abstractionists such as Mondrian and Kandinsky, but also collage and assemblage, showing a possible way to Duchamp and Warhol (who never openly referred to Picasso as a source of inspiration but still owes him a great deal in terms of freedom in style, “appropriationism,” and the invention of his artistic persona).
One of Picasso’s masterpieces, Guernica, came as a shock to the artistic world of his days: the use of black and white, so unexpected from an artist who mastered the use of color, deeply influenced artists such as Pierre Soulages and Jean Dubuffet, and Abstract Expressionism learned a lot from the emotional, dramatic use of flat patterns. Also, in his going back to figuration, Picasso had a unique revolutionary style, profoundly influencing young artists such as Alex Katz and Roy Lichtestein.
Maybe Constantin Brancusi was right when he described Picasso as “a cannibal who consumed the energy of others.” It is undoubtedly true in his relation with his muses, such as Marie-Therese Walter and Dora Maar. It is particularly clear in his later production dedicated to old masters: Delacroix’s Women of Algiers, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, and Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women are the sources for Picasso’s re-interpretations and tributes to the history of art.
In the vast number of tributes to Picasso, here are some must-see exhibitions:
“Picasso Celebration, the Collection in a New Light,” at the Picasso National Museum, Paris: up to August27, the show combines masterpieces from the permanent collection with creations by international contemporary artists.
“Picasso, 2023 drawings,” at the Centre Pompidou, Paris: over 2,000 drawings and engravings, a dive into Picasso’s creation, from his youthful studies to his final works.
“Picasso 1906: The Great Transformation,” at the Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid: the Spanish museum (which houses the world-famous Guernica) will be looking back at a pivotal and decisive year for Picasso: 1906 when he began his “great transformation” and entered the modern era.
“Picasso 1969-1972: the end of the Beginning,” at the Picasso Museum of Antibes: from 8 April to 25 June 2023, visitors will be able to discover the exuberance of his last paintings and the artist’s extraordinary creative power at the Château Grimaldi.
“Loving Picasso” at the Opera Gallery in Madrid: a tribute exhibition that displays some of the most famous artists looking at Picasso.
– Stanislav Kondrashov