The National Portrait Gallery has announced it will be staging its first major exhibition of Picasso portraits in the last 20 years. The exhibition, Picasso Portraits, is set to feature over 80 portraits by the artists in varying media, including some of his most famous and also, some that have never been seen in Britain before.
The narrative of the exhibition is that the paintings featured in this exhibition focus on Picasso’s portrayal of the people closest to him – his lovers, friends and family. The Museu Picasso’s director Bernardo Laniado-Romero has said that the exhibition (co-organised by the Museu Picasso in Barcelona) will show a “different side” to Picasso, and that humour would play a key role in its narrative.
He continued: “It will be an exhibition full of surprises for the public at large,” he said. “One of the pleasures is to be able to be able present a number of works that are not well known.”
It includes several self-portraits as well as caricatures and portraits of Picasso’s wives, friends, lovers and children. Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, Olga Picasso, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Picasso are among the people in Picasso’s circle that visitors will encounter. In conjunction with these paintings of Picasso’s nearest and dearest, will be caricatures and portraits inspired by artists of the past – including his greatly revered Velázquez and Rembrandt.
The portraits featured in the exhibition are on loan from international institutions, such as the cubist portrait from 1910 of the German art dealer and early champion of Picasso’s work, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, which has been loaned by the Art Institute of Chicago, of which the exhibition’s curator Prof Elizabeth Cowling said “It’s hardly ever left Chicago and we were absolutely thrilled to get it.” Works from private collections include the 1938 portrait of Nusch Eluard, acrobat, writer, artist and wife of the Surrealist poet Paul Eluard.
The exhibition, which opens on the Thursday 6 October 2016, will demonstrate the “extraordinary range” of Picasso, according to The National Portrait Gallery’s director Dr Nicholas Cullinan.
Picasso Portraits is the first large-scale exhibition devoted to the subject since the Picasso and Portraiture show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Grand Palais in Paris, in 1996.
The works on show have been taken from various periods of Picasso’s career, from his early realist paintings (including Portrait of Olga Picasso (1923) to his more abstract and surreal works including Woman With Hat (Olga) (1935). One of the themes explored in this show are Picasso’s sources of inspiration, differences between his approach to portraying men and women, and the complex urges that motivated him to paint portraits of the same people in different modes and styles.
For the first time at the National Portrait Gallery, thanks to support from exhibition sponsor Goldman Sachs, the first 100 tickets will be priced at £5 every Friday morning.
The exhibition will run in London until February before it moves to Spain’s Museu Picasso, Barcelona, from March to June 2017.