As a tribute to Jacqueline Picasso, who passed away 30 years ago on October 15th 1986, The Pierre Gianadda Foundation presents an extraordinary choice of paintings, engravings, ceramics and sculptures, casting a new perspective on Picasso’s late work. Fascinating and enlightening, the last twenty years of Picasso’s career are an anthem dedicated to love, life and creation. The exhibition shows how Jacqueline, whom he met for the first time in 1952 and married in 1961, was permanently present in his work. His last muse and wife, she was his only model during all the years she stood by his side.
For Picasso it is the beginning of a new life and an unprecedented pictorial impulse which he will develop in different places: first, in the villa La Californie situated on the heights of Cannes (1955-1958); then, in the huge castle of Vauvenargues (1958-1961), near Aix-en-Provence where Cézanne lived and painted, and, finally, in the country house Notre-Dame-de-Vie in Mougins (1961-1973).
Jacqueline’s care and youth boosted Picasso’s rhythm in creation. He painted her often, with an endless neck and her hieratic profile as in Jacqueline aux fleurs, 1954, or in a perfect figurative style, as in Jacqueline aux jambes repliées, 1954 ; her soul is alive in his work and his studio, as one can see it in L’Atelier de la Californie, 1956. Picasso’s portraits go beyond any physical resemblance to attain, in a sort of metaphorical poetry, his models’ full personality.
During the first ten years of this period, Picasso, known as one of the most modern painters of his time, revisited masterpieces from the past: Delacroix (Les Femmes d’Alger, 1954-1955), Velázquez (Las Meninas, 1957), Manet (Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1959-1961), Poussin and David (L’Enlèvement des Sabines, 1963). Picasso recreated surprisingly new masterpieces, totally turned away from their original purpose, sometimes with strong and expressive lines and colours, often with an abstract treatment of space.
Picasso addressed another topic after 1963: the painter and his model. During this single year Jacqueline is represented 160 times in the artist’s work. Subtle modulations allow him either to worship or blaspheme his muse – or simply test her patience. Picasso said about Jacqueline: “She has the gift to become a painting herself, to an unimaginable degree”.
During the last ten years in Mougins, Picasso focussed more and more on the essential. He explored the archetypical figure of the woman (the nude), the couple (kisses and embraces), the man (musketeer and man with a pipe) and the aging painter. The ultimate works were shown in two important exhibitions at the Pope’s Palace in Avignon: the first one was held in 1970 and organized by Yvonne and Christian Zervos; the second one, in 1973, after the artist death, was composed of works he had selected himself, with a preface by René Char for the catalogue. If certain critics, at that time, spoke about “senility, smearing, impotence”, Picasso’s late work is today considered unanimously as being one of the most captivating aspects of his creation.
Beside the paintings, the exhibition also reveals the talent of Picasso in other forms of expression:
Picasso and engraving
Engraving occupies a major part in Picasso’s work. He used different techniques with great skill, carrying them almost to perfection, mastering with liberty and virtuosity an impressive variety of printing processes. All of his themes are treated here: painter and his model, nudes, portraits, mythological beings, bullfighting. Etchings, lithographs, linocuts are exhibited.
Picasso and sculpture
During summer 1905 Picasso began to deal with sculpture. He discovered tribal art and masks, which have produced a determining shock in his work, in the ethnographical museum of Trocadéro. By assembling objects in 1912, he underlined their ambiguity. In the 1920s, he renewed sculpture while exploring the possibilities of forged iron, sometimes painted afterwards. Picasso’s creative boldness still stood out at the end of his life with cut, folded and painted steel sheets (Femme au chapeau, 1961 and Tête de femme [Jacqueline], 1962), figuring among the most astonishing works of this period.
Picasso and ceramic
In 1946, Picasso was living in Golfe-Juan, on the French Riviera. In Vallauris, at the annual pottery exhibition, he met Suzanne and Georges Ramié, who opened to him their ceramic factory. Since 1947, he had been working there regularly, transforming pieces from their original use with his prodigious imagination: a bottle would become an insect, a vase a bird or a faun. Lovely portraits are exhibited: Portrait de Jacqueline, 1956, Portrait de Jacqueline au foulard, 1956. Generally speaking, Picasso’s vocation as a ceramist is largely documented here.
The exhibition shows, thematically and chronologically, more than 110 pieces from private and public collections, from museums known all over the world (musée Picasso, Paris; Musée national d’art moderne-Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museu Picasso, Barcelona….), and from the collection of the artist’s family, making evident the diversity and importance of Picasso’s later ouput.