Lauded as the greatest artist of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso was born with exceptional talent, able to deftly work across in a multitude of mediums and artistic movements. His oeuvre remains unmatched in art history. But, when considering our July theme, Love and Marriage, Picasso, who lacked from the will to remain abstinent, couldn’t be a more apt subject.
Highlighting the man’s combined frivolities and artistic achievements, the Vancouver Art Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition titled Picasso: The Artist and His Muses, which is split into six sections and which examines how his work evolved in conjunction with his handful of muses.
The exhibition starts with Fernande Olivier; Picasso was young, poor and unknown, his groove at the time, the Rose Period, was a warm summery aesthetic with central themes of the jovial, jokers and jesters, or as the French say, saltimbanques.
Soon after meeting, they moved to southern Spain, where Picasso would adapt to the cultural and geographical nature of his surroundings — thus altering his artistic philosophy, which paired with Olivier’s influence, subsequently started one of the greatest artistic movements in modernity: Cubism. In 1909, he sculpted Head of a Woman, a cubist bust of Olivier. The movement shook the foundations of European modern art, elevating portraiture and sculpture to another dimension, and diluting the visual representations of the human form into an array geometrical shapes and patterns.
The exhibition then moves onto Picasso’s succeeding muse Olga Khokhlova, whom he moved back to Paris with after meeting her in Rome in 1917. His work became less experimental and visually vivid, partly due to the birth of his first child. Themes of motherhood became a frequent concern, as seen in the study Seated Nude (1922). However, his divergence from colourful expression and cubism to the neo-classical can also be explained by the Parisian cultural context of the time, with the wounds of World War I still very much raw.