Picasso: Encounters, on view at the Clark Art Institute June 4–August 27, investigates how Pablo Picasso’s (1881–1973) creative collaborations fueled and strengthened his art, challenging the notion of Picasso as an artist alone with his craft. The exhibition addresses his full stylistic range, the narrative themes that drove his creative process, the often-neglected issue of the collaboration inherent in print production, and the muses that inspired him, including Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque. Organized by the Clark with the exceptional support of the Musée national Picasso–Paris, Picasso: Encounters is comprised of thirty-five large-scale prints from private and public collections and three paintings including his seminal Self-Portrait (end of 1901) and the renowned Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), both on loan from the Musée national Picasso–Paris, Art Daily said.
“We are delighted to bring these exceptional works to Williamstown to share them with our visitors this summer,” said Olivier Meslay, Felda and Dena Hardymon Director of the Clark. “This exhibition gives us a different look at Picasso and provides the opportunity to study the remarkable achievements accomplished as he worked with different printmakers. Their craftsmanship and his artistry forged new paths that clearly expanded Picasso’s view and broadened his horizons. We are particularly grateful to the Musée national Picasso–Paris for the extraordinary loans they have made to this show –– we are thrilled to be able to bring these incredible paintings to the Clark.”
The exhibition begins with a painting from Picasso’s Blue Period (1901–1904). SelfPortrait embodies the despair, isolation, and poverty that marked images created during this period. Following this, visitors encounter The Frugal Repast (1904) which was the artist’s first foray into large-scale printmaking, and was created at the end of the Blue Period. Picasso was living with his lover Fernande Olivier in Montmartre, a bohemian section of Paris, creating art that depicted individuals at the margins of society, such as the poor. The impression shown in this exhibition ––one of only two works by Picasso in the Clark’s permanent collection ––was printed by Eugène Delâtre (1864–1938), an artist and printer known to add his own creative touches to other artists’ prints. Delâtre’s hand is evident in this printing in the inky areas of tone on the plate, which gave texture and depth absent in later printings. Picasso did not utilize Delâtre when the publisher Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939) re-issued the print, perhaps indicating his displeasure with the printer’s interpretation.
While still living in Montmartre, Picasso worked with the French artist Georges Braque to co-invent Cubism. Picasso created a handful of Cubist prints, the most important being Still-Life with Bottle of Marc (1912). The composition includes fragments of a bottle, as well as drinking glasses and cards. The playing cards at the bottom half of the print, including the ace of hearts, have been said to signify Picasso’s new lover, Eva Gouel. The print was commissioned by the German dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, probably as a way to market Picasso to a wider audience through the dissemination of prints.
“The Clark is fortunate to have received many generous loans from museums and private collections for this exhibition, which contain the artist’s most important graphic achievements throughout his career, serving as both a survey of his work and a window into the artist’s immensely varied production,” said Jay A. Clarke, Manton Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. “Looking at the artist’s work through the lens of collaboration allows us to consider Picasso from a fresh perspective. More often than not, Picasso is approached as a maestro, the conductor of his universe—but he did not create in a vacuum. He worked closely with printers who pulled the images off his copper plates, the publishers who commissioned and sold his prints, and the many muses who played important roles in the atmosphere of the studio or in the homes they shared. When we give agency to those around him—his supporters, dealers, publishers, children, and lovers—it makes his creative enterprise even more complex, layered, and alive.”
Following World War I, Picasso became involved in theater design. It was through this interest that he met his first wife, the Russian dancer Olga Khokhlova, who performed in the corps of the Ballets Russes. The couple moved to a fashionable neighborhood in Paris where they began to entertain and mingle with the elite, a changed atmosphere from Picasso’s earlier bohemian circles. The artist’s upward mobility, both in the art market and in the sophisticated lifestyle he shared with Khokhlova, began to appear in his art. The drypoint Portrait of Olga in a Fur Collar (1923) depicts Olga dressed in the height of fashion, serenely turning her head to the side.