Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris – Art Gallery of Ontario 2012

July 25, 2023

May 1 to August 26, 2012

“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” —Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

This exhibition offers a rare perspective on the life and work of this iconic artist: his own. It features works from Picasso’s private collection, now in the holdings of the Musée National Picasso in Paris, whilst the museum undergoes renovations. Over a career of more than seventy years, these are the works he kept with the intent of shaping his own artistic legacy.

The AGO is the sole Canadian and final venue on an international tour, which includes stops in Madrid, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, Helsinki, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Seattle, Richmond, San Francisco and Sydney. The pieces on display span this modern master’s unceasingly radical and diverse career, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris features:

The Death of Casagemas, one of the first works he created in Paris in 1901;
Autoportrait (Self-Portrait), the iconic 1906 self-portrait;
the 1904 Blue-period masterpiece Celestina (The Woman with One-Eye), and The Two Brothers, a 1906 work from his Rose period;
landmark African-inspired artwork that led to the advent of Cubism, including studies for the 1907 masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Three Figures Beneath a Tree, 1907-08;
examples of his genre-defining Analytic and Synthetic Cubism artworks, including the 1909-10 Sacré Coeur, 1911’s seminal Man with a Guitar and 1915’s Violin;
Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), a 1922 masterwork from his Neoclassical period, and 1925’s The Kiss, from his Surrealist period;
a series of sculptures created during the Second World War, including 1942’s Bull’s Head, and two bronzes, 1943’s Death’s Head and 1950’s The Goat;
The Bathers, the 1956 life-sized, six-piece figurative sculpture series created during a summer in Cannes; and
The Matador, the famous self-portrait painted in 1970, three years before his death.

The exhibition also highlights Picasso’s depictions of his muses and mistresses, including 1918’s Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, which features the Russian ballerina and Picasso’s first wife seated on a Spanish tapestry, the background left purposefully unfinished. French surrealist photographer Dora Maar, who inspired his 1937 “Weeping Woman” series, is also prominently featured, as is Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife and most-painted muse, depicted in the 1954 work Jacqueline with Crossed Hands.

Ultimately, every Picasso artwork is about Picasso — the works reveal his unique vision of the world and embody his profound responses to it. They lay bare the beauty and anxieties of his time, the horrors of war, as well as his personal passions, desires and fears.