The renowned, Swiss art museum and foundation ‘Fondation Beyeler’ has crafted a curation of a special collection of paintings and sculptures encompassing 80 of Picasso’s works from his Blue and Rose Periods. This new exhibition runs from February 3rd to May 26th and builds on the success of the “Picasso Panorama” which has already welcomed many visitors to Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland since January 14th 2019. Now, with this gathering together of some of the most compelling examples from two critical periods in Picasso’s artistic development,visitors can create their own individual experience of the artist’s progression towards 20th Century greatness.
It has, of course, taken time to source the comprehensive collection of works which we see displayed so effectively at Fondation Beyeler. Museums of international status have loaned paintings and sculptures while a number of private individuals have also made items from their own collections available for this remarkable show. Fondation Beyeler has drawn from its own examples of Picasso’s work to add additional strength and depth to the exhibits. There is much excitement as several works have not been seen in public in many years making it hard to imagine ever seeing this particular combination from Picasso together again.
Almost 140 years after his birth, Pablo Picasso still manages to speak to succeeding generations through the power of his imagery and his willingness to challenge artistic conventions. From an early age, he was never content to stand still. Crucially, his early draughtsmanship skills and sheer technical ability underpinned what he would go on to create in later life.
Picasso’s work from 1901 to 1906 represents a key part of the narrative of his development as an artist. The earlier part of these years saw his Blue Period – a time where his paintings displayed muted light and a limited palette of blue and blue-green. The hue and intensity of these works emerged at a moment when Picasso was poor beyond the power of 21st Century imagining. At such a melancholy time in his life, he still managed to leave us works whose feeling and quality of light make the viewer pause to ponder. The mood and atmosphere of the Blue Period oozes from these canvases prompting a consideration of the human stories lying behind the images of the subjects.
From around 1904, Picasso began to lighten his palette with the introduction of pink and orangey elements to his paintings. Working in both France and Spain, he took particular pleasure in capturing the vitality of the circus with its movement, skill and visual allure. Of course, it was becoming a brighter time for him but he still has the drive to capture the humanity of the people frozen in time yet somehow still alive in his paintings.
Fondation Beyeler has succeeded in presenting an exhibition which Europe may never see again. There is much to learn about Picasso’s almost “whole life” career.
Yet, he would shortly go on to reject naturalism and found Cubism with Georges Braque in 1907. However, close examination of this exhibition shows the signs of his artistic pathway to this fundamental change. The Blue and the Pink Periods give more than a hint of what was to come; what a joy to see such exceptional works at Fondation Beyeler.