Saturday, May 15th marked the last day of the “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee’ National Picasso, Paris” exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. As crowds swarmed to the museum to get either one last glimpse of this impressive exhibit, or scrambled to sneak a peek before it left our city – I felt fortunate in being able to say that I wandered through each room with my husband and a few close friends only a few weekends ago.I have been to museums and exhibits before. They have interested me and made me think about the history, artist, or pieces displayed. But none quite so much as this particular exhibit. I entered expecting to see several similar looking paintings – reminiscent of the well-known Portrait of Dora Maar (Portrait de Dora Maar). Much to my surprise and ultimate delight, this tour included a vast array of drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photographs created and inspired by Pablo Picasso – all of which had more different stories behind them than I expected to discover.
As I walked through the first room, clinging to my informational booklet, I wasn’t quite sure what to look at first. The exhibit rooms were set up in a way that took patrons through a timeline of the year 1900 through the late 1970s, from the Blue Period, to Cubism, to Politically influenced works. As an aside: I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, I had no idea how many periods of time and styles of art Picasso contributed to our history. But then, it proves we are never too old to learn.
Of the many halls and rooms full of well-displayed and secured pieces, a favorite of mine was Reading (La Lecture). Perhaps it was the drastic change from the look and feel of the rooms leading up to the one that held this and related pieces from this time period (1925-1935), but upon stepping in front of this painting – I was taken by the shapes, colors, and change in emotion from the previously “bland” colors and drawings in comparison. Here, my tour booklet comes back into play as I was curious if there was a reason for this heavy transformation. I was not disappointed as I read that during this time period, Picasso experienced a new infatuation with a mistress (Marie Therese Walter) who was only 17 years old when he met her. Her strong features, blonde hair, and voluptuous body can be noticed throughout this period until his next drastic change in emotion – politics.
A direct quote from the tour booklet that expresses well the tone of the exhibit and perceptions of his life’s work read, “It is tempting to see his career as a series of phases with one style giving way to another. In fact, at any given time he worked in a variety of pictorial modes simultaneously.” I feel honored to have visited this special exhibit and learned that, in fact, my own expectations were exceeded.
Newly inspired by this artist – whose work was so emotionally influenced and who seemed to spend his life striving to find his own way and express his own visions, despite the opinions of fellow artists and critics – I’d like to leave you with this quote from the man himself:
“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso
As always, thanks for reading and please share your thoughts!
PS: Remember to support the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts!!