Picasso Portraits Coming to the National Portrait Gallery This Autumn
Apr 20, 2016
Pablo Picasso created more than 150,000 individual works of art in his lifetime. Nearly 20,000 of those works were paintings, and a shocking number of those were portraits. This autumn, the National Portrait Gallery in London will present Picasso Portraits, an exhibition that will feature more than 80 of the artist’s portraits, including examples from every phase of the artist’s prolific and innovative career.
More Than 70 Years of Picasso Portraits
Picasso painted his first self-portraits as a very young man. The exhibition Picasso Portraits will include a selection of work that stretches all the way back to the earliest moments of his career, including darkly emotional Expressionistic portraits he painted when he was only a teenager. The exhibition will also include works from each of the famous phases of his artistic evolution, such as his Blue Period and Pink Period, Analytic and Synthetic Cubism, Neo-Classicism and Surrealism. It explores the artist’s commitment to portraiture all the way through to the end of his life, including the final self-portraits he painted shortly before he died.
This stunning exhibition demonstrates that for Picasso, portraiture (whether painting himself or someone else) was his favorite mode of self-expression. He returned to the tendency throughout his life, painting portraits of himself, his family members, colleagues, friends and lovers, often returning to paint the same individual dozens of times and in multiple styles. He utilized portraiture as a way to explore whatever tendency he happened to be working with at the time, and relied on it as a way to constantly redefine himself and his practice.
Picasso also utilized portraiture as a way to connect himself with the great Masters of the past, and to examine his own roots as a classically trained artist. For example, consider Picasso’s Las Meninas, a series of 58 paintings created by Picasso in 1957 that explore the famous work of the same name by the 17th Century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez.
Pablo Picasso - Self-Portrait with Uncombed Hair, 1896, Oil on canvas, 32.7 x 23.6 cm
Pablo Picasso - Self Portrait Facing Death, 1972, Pencil and crayon on paper, 65.7 x 50.5 cm
Picasso Portraits From Around the Globe
The work exhibited in Picasso Portraits gives an unprecedented look at the way portraiture shaped his oeuvre, and represents an exhaustive effort to bring together works from collections all over the world. The National Gallery’s portrait collection itself is the most extensive in the world. But many of the portraits in this exhibition have been assembled on loan from various other international institutions. Some are being shown through cooperation with the Museu Picasso, Barcelona, who is co-presenting the exhibition. And many of the portraits are being exhibited through the generosity of private collectors. The exhibition includes several Picasso portraits that have never been shown in public in the United Kingdom before.
According to the Director Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, the National Portrait Gallery “aims to be the foremost centre for the study of and research into portraiture…(allowing) us to stimulate debate and to address questions of biography, diversity and fame which lie at the heart of issues of identity and achievement.” Certainly there are few artists more suited to an examination of fame and identity than Picasso. This exhibition accomplishes the Gallery’s goals, giving us a deeper glimpse of Picasso’s identity by showing us the many ways he so intriguingly explored and examined the identities of everyone in his life, including him.
Diego Velázquez - Las Meninas, 1657, Oil on canvas, 318 × 276 cm
Picasso Portraits: The Book
Accompanying the exhibit will be a book by renowned Picasso scholar Elizabeth Cowling, Professor Emeritus in Art History at the University Of Edinburgh. Co-published by the Museu Picasso, the book includes breathtaking images of many of the Master’s greatest portraits and makes a deep and personal examination of Picasso’s obsession with portraiture. The book will delve into the intimate connection Picasso had with most of the subjects of his portraits and will explore the origins of his deep connection with the act of painting a sitter.
Picasso Portraits opens 6 October 2016 and runs to 5 February 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Featured Image: Pablo Picasso - Las Meninas, 1957, Oil on canvas, 194 cm × 260 cm