Columbus readies Picasso exhibit

Staff report

COLUMBUS — The Columbus Museum of Art, in partnership with the Barnes Foundation, will present “Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change” from June 10 through Sept. 11.

Curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, an independent curator and specialist in early 20th-century European art, the exhibition explores Pablo Picasso’s work between 1912 and 1924, prior to, during, and after the tumultuous years of the First World War, when the artist began exploring both cubist and classical modes in his art.

Inspired by the Columbus Museum of Art’s Picasso “Still Life with Compote and Glass,” and the Barnes’s extensive Picasso holdings, “Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change” features some 50 works by Picasso drawn from major American and European museums and private collections. The show includes oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and four costumes the artist designed for the avant-garde ballet, “Parade,” in 1917. Several important canvases by Picasso’s contemporaries, including Henri Matisse, Fernand Leger and Diego Rivera, will also be presented.

“A radical shift occurred in Picasso’s work in 1914,” noted Fraquelli. “Following seven years of refining the visual language of cubism, he began to introduce elements of naturalism to his work.” This change in his production can be viewed against the backdrop of an unsteady cultural climate in Paris during World War I. Many people identified the fragmented forms of cubism with the German enemy and therefore perceived it as unpatriotic. This negative impression reverberated throughout Paris during the war and may have been a factor in Picasso’s shift in styles. However, Fraquelli said, “What becomes evident when looking at Picasso’s work between 1914 and 1924, is that his two artistic styles, cubism and neoclassicism, are not antithetical; on the contrary, each informs the other, to the degree that the metamorphosis from one style to the other is so natural for the artist that occasionally they occur in the same works of art.”

Included in the exhibition will be major works from the Picasso museums in Barcelona, Malaga and Paris, including, respectively, “Woman with a Mantilla (Fatma),” an oil and charcoal on canvas from 1917; “Olga Kholklova with a Mantilla,” an oil on canvas from 1917; and “Femme Assise,” an oil on canvas from 1920.

Picasso’s juxtaposition of figurative and cubist techniques can be seen as an expression of artistic freedom during a time of great conflict, and his shifts in style became a means of not repeating, in his words, “the same vision, the same technique, the same formula.” The works by Picasso’s contemporaries, such as Diego Rivera’s “Still Life with Bread Knife” and Henri Matisse’s “Lorette in a Red Jacket,” offer further insight into the shifting cultural climate in France during this transformative period.

Single tickets cost $20 for adults, $12 for seniors and students over 18, $8 for students 6-17, free for CMA members and children 5 and under. CMA general admission is free on Sundays and pay-what-you-want on Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m.; entrance to “Picasso” on those days is $6 for adults, $3 for seniors and students 6 and older.

Staff report