Friends. Lovers. Artists. Poets. Writers. Collectors. Art dealers. Such were the elements of Picasso’s studio life and the subjects of some of his most prized paintings.
“Picasso: The Artist’s Studio” is a collaborative exhibit between the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum. It opens here at the Atheneum on Saturday and continues through Oct. 21. The exhibit is the first show to focus on the recurring role Picasso’s studio played in his paintings and drawings.
Unlike most artists’ studios, Picasso’s work space was, for him, a lifeline to what was going on around him.
“The studio connected him to the world,” says Michael Fitzgerald, a Picasso scholar and guest curator of the show. “It was a practical thing in the life of the artist.”
What happened in the studio rarely escaped the artist’s eye and, as this exhibit shows, his studio life often provided the dollop of paint into which he dipped his brush.
From the sketches of Picasso’s teenage years, like “Studies for Self Portraits” (1906), to the celebratory, almost sunny Cubist “Painter and Infant” (1969), the show encompasses his journey through a range of styles including realism, surrealism, Cubism and classicalism.
John Richardson, who was a friend of Picasso and has written two volumes of a planned three-book biography, “A Life of Picasso,” believes that the exhibit will reveal much about Picasso’s uniquely active studio life.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea because the studio became a microcosm of his private world,” Richardson says. “Starting very early, when he first came to Paris in 1902, right up to the end of his life, he painted his studio.”
Richardson contrasted Picasso’s studio paintings with the “solitary” works of Picasso’s closest associate, George Braque.
“The paintings of Braque’s studio are more mysterious,” Richardson says. “He painted the space as if it was almost liquid and the objects almost melting into it.”
The exhibit was born three years ago in the mind of former Atheneum director Peter Sutton. He wanted to expand the museum’s permanent collection to include more paintings related to Picasso’s studio.
Sutton approached Fitzgerald--an associate professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Hartford’s Trinity College--for help in developing the Atheneum’s collection into a show that would travel between Hartford and any other museums interested in participating.
Over the next three years, Fitzgerald, author of “Making Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth Century Art,” expanded the show to include 56 works by Picasso. (There are nine works that will be seen only in the portion of the exhibit that will be shown in Cleveland from Oct. 28-Jan. 6.)
Other theme exhibits of Picasso’s work have included the artist’s portraits and landscapes. But from this show, Fitzgerald hopes others can experience the results of the tremendous pleasure Picasso had creating his vast oeuvre.
Richardson says the show may even have an edge over the exhibit of Picasso’s erotic works currently at the Jeu de Paume museum in central Paris.
“I think that the Hartford-Cleveland show will include a great many paintings which the organizers of the erotic show in Paris didn’t include because they omitted the element of the studio being an erotic arena,” he says.
Art buffs can discuss how Picasso’s early works show the influence of Edouard Manet, Gustave Courbet and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and compare his surrealist “The Sculptor” (1931) to his later “The Painter and Model” (1963) and “At Work” (1971).
“His last pictures deal with old age and youth. Infants seem to be handed off by the artist,” Fitzgerald says. “He was trying to express that . . . even if he was at the end of the line, someone else would come along and the spirit would be renewed, the tradition would be carried on even if he were not the vessel through which that would be done.”