The fluctuating evolution of Pablo Picasso on display at the Barnes

The fluctuating evolution of Pablo Picasso on display at the Barnes

The Philadelphia Tribune
February 19, 2016
By Bobbi Booker

Unlike other members of the Parisian avant-garde, Pablo Picasso never directly addressed the World War I as a subject in his art. The dramatic fluctuations in Picasso’s style during the period surrounding World War I, from 1912 to 1924, are highlighted in Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change.

The show at the Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway brings together some 50 works by the artist from major American and European museums and private collections, including paintings, drawings, watercolors and costumes designed for the avant-garde ballet, Parade, as well as several pieces by his friends and contemporaries. Picasso began experimenting with naturalistic representation, turning out classical figure drawings that outraged many of his avant-garde colleagues—this was quite a shift from the radical cubist approach he had been developing since 1907.

“A radical shift occurred in Picasso’s work in 1914,” explained exhibition curator Simonetta Fraquelli. “Following seven years of refining the visual language of cubism, he began to introduce elements of naturalism to his work.”

Picasso did not give up cubism, however. Instead, he shuttled back and forth between two different styles for over a decade, breaking forms apart and making them whole again. Fraquelli, an independent curator and specialist in early 20th-century European art, adds, “What becomes evident when looking at Picasso’s work during this period is that his two artistic styles—cubism and neoclassicism—are not antithetical; on the contrary, each informs the other, to the degree that the metamorphosis from one style to the other is so natural for the artist that occasionally they occur in the same works of art.”

The exhibition looks closely at Picasso’s wartime production, exploring it in connection with changes to his personal life, with his misgivings about cubism, and with the political meanings ascribed to cubism during the war. The exhibition will travel to the Columbus Museum of Art in June.

The Barnes Foundation, in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, premieres Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change, on Sunday. On view through May 9, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, published by Scala Arts.