Pablo Picasso, Ritratto di Olga in poltrona, spring 1918, oil on canvas, 51 3/16 × 35 inches (130 × 88.8 cm) © Succession Picasso, by SIAE 2017. Musée National Picasso-Paris, Paris.

"Pablo Picasso. Tra cubismo e classicismo 1915–1925" at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, Italy.

On view September 22, 2017 through January 21, 2018.


It is February 1917 and all of Europe is raging with the Great War. Pablo Picasso, who is only thirty-six years old but already the great painter who led the Cubist revolution, arrives in Italy for the first time, following his friend Jean Cocteau. He divides his time between Rome and Naples, and is deeply impressed by the Roman ruins in the capital, and by the popular art of Naples.

One hundred years after the trip that left its mark on his art as well as his private life (it was in Rome, while working on the costumes and scenery for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, that he met Russian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, who later became his wife), the Scuderie del Quirinale celebrates the event with a major exhibition that will be inaugurated on September 21 by President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella. The exhibition marks the conclusion of the events begun this spring in honor of the Spanish artist's grand tour of the country.

The exhibition, entitled "Picasso. Tra cubismo e classicismo 1915–1925” ("Picasso. Between Cubism and Neoclassicism: 1915–1925"), brings together one hundred masterpieces displayed and selected by curator Olivier Berggruen in collaboration with Anunciata von Liechtenstein. These include Portrait of Olga in the Armchair (1917), Harlequin (1917), Guitar, Bottle, Fruit Dish and Glass on the Table (1919), Two Women Running on the Beach (1922), The Pan Pipes (1923), Saltimbanque Seated with Arms Crossed (1923), and Harlequin with a Mirror (1923).

The exhibition is supported by loans from excellent museums and collections: from the Musée Picasso and the Pompidou Centre in Paris to the Tate in London; from the MoMa and the Metropolitan Museum in New York to the Berggruen Museum in Berlin, to the Fundació Museu Picasso in Barcelona and the Guggenheim in New York. "We have been working on this exhibition since 2015 and it will be one of the most important exhibitions on Picasso ever mounted in Italy," says Mario De Simoni, Chairman and Managing Director of Ales spa, co-producer of the show with MondoMostre Skira and with the participation of the Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica.

At Palazzo Barberini, the grand salon frescoed by Pietro da Cortona will display—for the first time in Rome—the stage curtain painted for Parade, an immense piece 17 metres long and 11 metres high. The architecture by Bernini will frame an exciting dialogue between Picasso's work and the great Baroque fresco.

The work for the ballet Parade, with music by Satie, was the very reason Picasso came to Italy. As his friend and critic Apollinaire would say, the ballet would be destined to cause no small upset in the minds of the audience and even in the work of "Picasso the genius." Along with Parade, there are also the sketches for the scenery and backdrops for the ballet Pulcinella; another theatrical production greatly influenced by the experience of the Italian tour. In Rome, Picasso saw the artwork of Raphael at the Vatican; in Naples he experienced the Farnese Hercules and the Antinous in the Archaeological Museum, in addition to the artistic and emotional impact of the mysterious charm of the frescoes of Pompeii.

All this experience will be the focus of the exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale, the final summation of the Italian celebrations of Picasso. Particular attention will be given to the method of pastiche, with analysis of the means and procedures through which Picasso used it as a tool of modernism, as part of a journey from realism to abstraction that is among the most original and extraordinary in the history of modern art.

The exhibition will illustrate Picasso's experiments with various styles and genres, from the work with decorative surfaces in collages he carried out during the World War I to the stylized realism of the "Diaghilev years," from still lifes to portraits.

The exhibition will thus document the long-term impact of his time in Italy on his art, evinced by the numerous works inspired by the classics which he executed during the period following the trip. These are works conceived and developed in a very personal way, as curator Olivier Berggruen stresses: "What struck him about the ancient statues was how monumental they were, and their hidden sensuality, more than the shapes and proportions. But then, anticipating certain modern transgressions, Picasso had started to bring together "high" and "low" with great ease. In his desire for art that was modern but, even more than that, primitive at the same time, he became even more interested in all those worlds "on the margins of classicism." Rather than ancient Rome and the Renaissance, he preferred the Etruscans, the erotic frescoes of Pompeii, Commedia dell'Arte masks and the frenetic life of Via Margutta in 1917 or of the alleys of Naples."

This September's exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale represents the conclusion as well as the culmination of Italy's celebration of Picasso on the hundredth anniversary of his visit to our country.
 



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