March 24, 2015

A Visit to the "New" Musée Picasso - Paris

One of the main events of the 2014 cultural season was the re-opening of the Musée Picasso - Paris on October 25.  This national museum, housed in the former "Hôtel Salé" a private mansion in the Marais district, was originally opened in 1985 as a repository for the very large donation given by the Picasso heirs to the French Government in lieu of estate taxes.  The museum was closed in 2009 to accommodate a massive renovation and expansion project that was expected to take two years, but, as anyone who has ever done work on a home or apartment knows, these projects are always much more expensive and take far longer than originally anticipated.  The story of the remodeling of the Picasso Museum became almost daily fodder for art newspapers around the world as the cost overruns were astronomical and the bureaucratic infighting was worthy of a soap opera.  Of course all's well that ends well and the museum re-opened to rave reviews and hoards of people longing to see what the fuss was about.
The upper level of the central staircase
with a light fixture by Diego Giacometti

I, of course, was one of those people and last week I queued up for a peek at the new galleries and displays.  The finished product was indeed impressive - a beautiful compliment to the spectacular collection and user friendly too!

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is probably the greatest and most famous artist of the 20th century and he created over 60,000 works in his lifetime.  The Musée Picasso - Paris boasts over 6,000 pieces in the collection and about 400 are on display at any given time.  This is enough to give visitors a very good overview of the artist's œuvre without overwhelming them in the process.

The flow is arranged chronologically starting on the ground floor with Picasso's earliest works, his Blue Period, then the Rose Period leading up to his experiments with Cubism and some of the wonderful collages.

"Women in the Bathroom", 1937-38

The exhibit continues upstairs where the collages evolved into assemblages and paintings with more texture and relief than traditional oils

The end of World War I saw a return to a more classic style - formal yet with a Surreal edge.  I particularly liked these three small paintings that were displayed side by side.  Here one can clearly see the evolution of the same subject over a decade...

"Bathers", 1918

"Two Women Running on the Beach", 1922

"Bather Opening a Beach Hut", 1928

There are rooms devoted to the work done in each of his studios including the decade spent on the rue des Grands-Augustins.  Here he was influenced by the cataclysmic events of the Second World War and the Spanish Civil War as well as his turbulent love life.

"Portrait of Dora Maar", 1937

The next floor takes us from approximately 1945 until the end of Picasso's life and the subjects range from the excitement of the bullfight to the violence of war to peaceful portraits of his children.  Up in the attic was his collection of works by other masters including Cezanne, Bonnard, Renoir and Manet.  One doesn't often think of Impressionism and Picasso as having anything in common, but he was profoundly influenced by these more traditional artists and often reinterpreted their work in his own special style.

The last stop is the lower level where works on paper are displayed in the dimmer light of the limestone-walled cellar.  Here we find photographs, drawings, prints and illustrated books from all stages of his life exhibited alongside some impressive metal sculptures. 
"The Painter, 20 February, 1963"
As you can imagine with an artist as prolific and diverse as Picasso there was a lot to see and a lot to learn but the well curated selection of works gave an excellent overview of the genius of Picasso and in a beautiful milieu.  The long overdue renovation of this cultural treasure was certainly worth the wait!

1 comment:

Lee Wilde said...

An excellent post, Georgina. I've been reading up on Picasso (again) recently. I find his works endlessly fascinating, although I find it disappointing he didn't give more credit to his influences.