“Picasso: Themes and Variations,” at the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street, presents 123 prints from the museum’s collection, representing the major developments in Pablo Picasso’s work and providing insight into decades worth of artistic experimentation. The exhibition explores the artist’s creative process, following his prints from the early 1900’s Blue and Rose periods through his Cubist discovery. The collection spans almost 20 themes, including animals, saltimbanques, and mistresses.
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As a young artist, Picasso purchased a printing press. He began to experiment with etchings, drypoints, lithography, wood cuts, linoleum cuts, and aquatint in the themes of the Blue and Rose periods. As his career developed and he devoted more time to canvas, Picasso continued to cross-relate his paintings to prints. Prints allowed Picasso to develop iterations of ideas, with the artist sometimes creating dozens of variations of the same subject, abstracting it as he progressed. Picasso used his prints to create narrative, often grouping copperplates together to develop composition. Picasso dubbed this approach his “fiction.”
Much of his portraiture in printmaking focuses on female subjects, such as his first and second wives Olga and Jacqueline, lover Madeline, photographer Dora Maar, and painter Francoise Gilot. One lithograph series of Francoise reveals his evolving perception of the painter, with Gilot’s countenance morphing as her and Picasso’s relationship developed. Another source of artistic inspiration was Greek myths. Picasso’s Surrealist series of bulls on display at MoMA is taken from the tale of the Minotaur.
“Picasso: Themes and Variations” includes relatively new MoMA acquisitions. Extensive and insightful, the collection clearly illustrates the growth of Picasso, both the man and the artist. The exhibition was organized by Deborah Wye, chief curator of the department of prints and illustrated books. The exhibition will remain open until August 30th, 2010.
Arts | Picasso: Themes and Variations–coming to the MoMA [The Swish Life Magazine]
Art Review | Picasso Prints at MoMA and Marlborough [NY Times]
Exhibitions | Picasso: themes and Variations [MoMA]