Picasso in Switzerland, the most important exhibition in Europe.
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“When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso”. With this phrase the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Switzerland opens the most elaborate and expensive exhibition that it has hosted to date: ‘The young Picasso, the blue and pink era’ which covers the painter from Malaga’s period from 1901 to 1906.
For the first time in Europe, the masterpieces of this important phase in the life of the painter will be presented together. The paintings of this time are the most beautiful and emotional of classical modernity, and it is very likely they will never be shown again in one place. The Beyeler Foundation needed four years to collect from museums and private collections -from Europe, the United States, Canada, Russia, China and Japan- the nearly 80 canvases and sculptures that will be exhibited in the museum until May 26, 2019.
The young Picasso
Little can be noted that has not already been said regarding this temperamental, experimental and talented artist. From a very young age, he showed and demonstrated to the society of the twentieth century all that his genius was capable of creating.
What is different about this exhibition, however, lies in the approach to young Picasso’s work, when he began to experiment with colours, shapes and textures. The painter was in search of his identity, in which the influence of the great artists that he was finding out about and reinventing during his time in Paris is easily recognised. Canvases that recall the brushstrokes of Van Gogh, such as the self-portrait ‘Yo Picasso’. chosen by the exhibition’s curator, Raphael Bouvier, to preside over it; courtesans in the feel of Toulouse Lautrec; curves, colours and motifs inspired by Gauguin, but always from the perspective of the youth from Spanish provinces who gave himself to painting in Paris.
It’s a time marked by poverty but a unique creative energy; the blue period stands out for the nostalgia and pain in his pictures that honour his late friend Carles Casagemas, a tormented artist who died for the love of a Parisian prostitute, with whom Picasso would later have a relationship: Germaine, immortalised in the painting ‘La Vida’ of 1903. Time (1901-1904), which approaches the human condition, portrays the people on the margins of Parisian society at the start of the twentieth century; which took place in the large city’s poor neighbourhoods. It is the Paris of brothel women, the sick and elderly, people excluded and forgotten about.
It is the dark Paris, from the one who learns and that forges the genius that will paint Guernica years later, which is a testimony of the pain and horror of war.
In counterpart, around 1905, that same Picasso leaves behind that time of hardship and little recognition and begins to enter the pink era, “like the cheeks of a lady”, this is how it was defined by his friend the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
Now established in France, a more cheerful artist begins to emerge, his pictures reflect hope, he starts toying with geometric shapes, with styling bodies; it’s the time of jugglers, acrobats and Harlequins, although they still retain that melancholic touch of the blue phase. His own circus vision of the Holy Family derives from this time in the painting “Family of Acrobats with Monkey”, a gaunt harlequin sitting next to his wife with his son. To the right of the woman is the monkey looking at the couple. In this painting, an elegant and harmonious drawing is perceived, a more serene atmosphere, although the faces still have a certain melancholy.
And it is precisely in the way of treating the faces and composition of the figures that the work bears resemblance to Renaissance masterpieces such as Raphael’s Holy Family. Here dissatisfaction with the present way begins to emerge in the artist and he starts to experiment, flout norms and shape into the genius of later years.
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