The exhibition ‘Picasso: The Artist and His Muses’ explores the significance of Pablo Picasso’s six most prominent muses: Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque in the development of his work. For the first time, this exhibition examines the six women who were most important to Picasso’s artistic development – who for the purpose of this exhibition we have chosen to define as muses – as well as exploring in depth the idea of the artist-muse relationship in the catalogue. The exhibition highlights the women behind the portraits and tell their stories while also tracing the ways they inspired and shaped Picasso’s artistic development.
The ancient Greek muse topos of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne sought to give name to the artistic impulse and artistic inspiration. Only figurative art had no muse-aegis, being regarded as little more than physical labour. Paradoxically, the concept of the muse is to the modern mind most readily linked to painting, from the pre-Raphaelite depictions of Elizabeth Siddal to Lucien Freud’s ’Sue the Benefits Worker Sleeping’.
Cultural critic Germaine Greer has said that the modern muse is engaged in a reverse penetration of the male artist, bringing forth creativity from the ‘womb of his mind’. But could these relationships be seen as essentially egotistical, a means by which an artist seeks to understand and give expression to his own feelings and impulses in relation to the muse, rather than the depicting muse herself?
For Pablo Picasso this principle seems to be true, the very number of women recognised in this exhibition as his muses attesting to it. None stands above the others as an archetypal muse, and each contributed profoundly to his artistic direction. After Picasso met the young Marie-Thérèse Walter, his marriage to Olga Khokhlova began to break down and he eventually left the marital home. However, Olga Khokhlova’s numerous nervous breakdowns connected to his infidelity and the collapse of their relationship inspired a new direction in Picasso’s work. Diametrically opposed to Olga Khokhlova was Dora Maar, an artist in her own right who also influenced him politically in a relationship that was much more ambiguous in its mutual creative osmosis.
In order to show the significance of Pablo Picasso’s six muses in the development of his work, the exhibition features – in six corresponding sections – works spanning almost his entire career from 1906 to the early 1970s. In contrast to the other women who modelled for the artist, these relationships were extraordinarily fecund for Picasso’s creativity and had a significant long-term influence on the development of his style. In Picasso discourse they have therefore become eponyms for his artistic periods: from the période Fernande to the période Jacqueline.
We are proud to have the support of many prominent institutions and private collectors, among them are the Brooklyn Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Philadelphia Art Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, Portland Art Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, Yokohama Art Museum, The Israel Museum of Art, National Gallery of Canada, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, Musée Picasso Antibes, Musée Picasso Paris, Musée Picasso Malaga and the Picasso Estate.
Vancouver Artgallery, Canada from June 11, 2016 – October 02, 2016.
Curator: Katharina Beisiegel
Catalogue editor: Katharina Beisiegel
The catalogue has been published by Black Dog Publishing, London, May 2016, in English.