Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change

February 21–May 9, 2016

The Barnes Foundation, in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, premieres Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change on February 21. On view at the Barnes through May 9, this exhibition examines the dramatic fluctuations in Picasso’s style during the period surrounding the First World War, from 1912 to 1924. The show 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; and several pieces by his friends and contemporaries.

Unlike other members of the Parisian avant-garde, Picasso never directly addressed World War I as a subject in his art. Instead, he 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. 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. The exhibition looks closely at the strange ambivalence characterizing 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 is curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, an independent curator and specialist in early 20th-century European art. The managing curator at the Barnes is Martha Lucy. The exhibition will travel to the Columbus Museum of Art in June 2016.


“The thought-provoking exhibition Picasso: the Great War, Experimentation and Change. . . attempts to find reasons for these swings [between cubism and classicism] by examining the strikingly diverse works Picasso made between 1912 and 1924 in relation to those problematic times.”—The Wall Street Journal

“This exhibition will be the first in the US to take on the much-debated question of Picasso’s stylistic modality, particularly the ease with which cubism rubbed shoulders with neoclassicism in the artist’s work, both leading up to and following World War I.”—Artforum

“What this exhibition shows us is the artist finding ever more ways to be Picasso.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer



Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that includes thought-provoking essays around works in the exhibition. This beautiful book, produced exclusively for the Picasso show, is a treasured keepsake and a must-have for art aficionados.

Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change is sponsored by


Morgan Stanley


The contributing sponsor is


Additional support is provided by the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund and the Robert Lehman Foundation.

The exhibition is made possible by the generosity of individual contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Image: Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). Harlequin Musican, 1924. Oil on canvas, 51 3/16 × 38 1/4 in. (130 × 97.2 cm). Given in loving memory of her husband, Taft Schreiber, by Rita Schreiber. National Gallery of Art, Washington. 1989.31.2. © 2016 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


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Selected Press

View media coverage of Picasso: The Great War, Experimentation and Change.

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