The new exhibition is the first to fully examine the impact of southern European sites on Picasso
This winter, the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida offers a celebration of Pablo Picasso’s flourishing creativity in southern France and northern Spain. Organized by the Musée Dalí in collaboration with the Musée national Picasso-Paris, Picasso and the lure of the south offers a fascinating new avenue for understanding Picasso’s artistic spirit through the prism of this unique geographical area. Some of Pablo Picasso’s most creative periods took place during summer stays in the mountain and coastal communities of the Spanish and French border, including Céret, Sorgues, Vallauris, Horta de Ebro and Cadaqués.. The exhibition features paintings, drawings and collages – about half of which have never been seen in the United States – from the Musée national Picasso-Paris, as well as the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, New York. The Dalí Museum is the only place in the world to present this exhibition, which is curated by Dr William Jeffett, Curator of Special Exhibitions at the Dalí Museum.
“Picasso created accomplished works of art that drew inspiration from the cultures of this shared southern region, leading viewers to explore its rich appeal and reflect on the notion of border regions in a more universal way,” said Dr Hank Hine, executive director of The Dalí. “Picasso and the lure of the south is emblematic of the accessible and multi-layered international projects that The Dalí is behind to enlighten our public from near and far.
Born in Malaga, Spain, in 1881, Picasso spent his formative years in Barcelona, where he learned to speak Catalan. In the many places where he lived, worked and visited across the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, Picasso was inspired by the reliefs, rituals and customs of the region. Picasso and the lure of the south presents an exceptional selection of portraits, still lifes, figurative studies and landscapes dating from 1909 to 1972 which reflect the relationships of Picasso’s entire career with the provinces of his homeland and the south of France.
The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections which retrace the importance of the geographical region for Picasso’s work and heritage.
The birth of cubism presents a selection of drawings and collages that explain how specific places in northern Spain and southern France – far from the big cities of Paris and Barcelona – inspired the first experiments and evolutions of Picasso’s cubism. Images of village life, mountain views, and musicians feature prominently, including The oil mill (1909) and Studies of a boat (1910), a typical Catalan fishing boat rendered with cross hatching.
From cubism to realism examines Picasso’s shift to a more playful approach to Cubist idioms, and examines how the southern environment profoundly influenced his landscapes, still lifes, and depictions of cafe regulars. Landscape of Juan-les-Pins (1920) depicts houses and gardens through an explosion of color, light and airy joie de vivre that retains some elements of Cubism but in a whole new way.
In the third section, Southern Corridas – Bullfighting, the exhibition maps Picasso’s fascination with bullfighting from the youngest age. It is perhaps the most persistent subject of his long life as an artist, the bull representing a personal and political symbol. In the painting Bullfight (most likely executed in late December 1923 or early January 1924), Picasso focuses on the conflict between the bull and the horse, as well as the death of the matador, with an early surreal concern for both the passionate drama and the closeness of the dead.
The exhibition ends with Surrealism and beyond, when Picasso’s painting in the 1930s evolved into a deep engagement with surrealism. Although he was never an official member of the Surrealist group, largely because his work was grounded in lived experience, Picasso developed a rich synthesis of the southern palette and glow that was imbued with surrealist motifs of dreams and imagination.
Among the masterpieces in the exhibition that have never been exhibited in the United States are the canvases Portrait of Madame Rosenberg and her daughter (1918), a tour de force of naturalism and a return to order associated with classicism, tradition and Mediterranean culture; Woman at the buffet (1936); and The kiss (1969), in which a bald and bearded character, avatar of the artist, is locked in a kiss with a brunette woman.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 240-page illustrated catalog edited by Ludion, with essays by the curator, William Jeffett, and Emilia Philippot, head of collections at the Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Timed tickets with advance purchase are required to visit the Dalí. Picasso and the lure of the south is included in the entrance fee to the Dalí Museum. Tickets for the exhibition period will be available by December 30, 2021 at TheDali.org.