Portraits: Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou invites us to take a fascinating journey through the rich, complex genre of portraiture as interpreted by the various art movements of the 20th century. To this end, FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE has selected 80 exquisite masterpieces by some of history’s greatest art ists from the collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne - Centre Pompidou (MNAM - CP) in Paris. Portraiture is one of the mainstays of art history, a genre in which tradition converged with new formal proposals following the advent of modernism in the late 19th century. Portraiture has generated some of the quintessential icons of contemporary art . It has also proven receptive to the formal discoveries made by the historical avant - garde movements . Portraiture has been used to reflect on the human condition and the perspective of the other, as well as to explore the very essence of the artist.
Curated by Jean - Michel Bouhours, curator at the Pompidou , the show spans a time period that begins with the portrait of Erik Satie painted by Suzanne Valadon in 1892 - 93 and ends with John Currin’s The Moroccan from 2011. Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Henri Matisse, Robert Delaunay, Antonio Saura, Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miró and Amedeo Modigliani are just some of the artists represented here, whose works comprise a remarkable collection of high - quality oil paintings and sculptures brought together for the first time in Spain. The exhibition revolves around a single question: of all the pictorial genres derived from academicism, why has portraiture been so receptive to so many formal breakthroughs, producing the majority of our 20th century icons? To answer this question, the show offers a chronological overview that allows visitors to perceive the changes in style and form that the portrait has experienced over the course of the century, keeping pace with the efforts to explore and define the human essence. Portraiture cannot be properly appreciated without taking into account a whole series of philosophical, religious, mythical and metaphysical premises, or without considering the particular aesthetic embraced by each artist. Moreover, one of the portrait’s defining traits in the contemporary period is the indelible presence of a certain pathos which, bound up with history, has embodied the violence, barbarity and tragedy of the human condition.
Also, the appearance of photography altered the course of contemporary portraiture in painting. At first photography borrowed the codes of pictorial art, offering a new guarantee of objectivity and faithfulness to the original in exchange. However, as the two media settled into coexistence, painting also borrowed other qualities from photography, such as posing or the low - angle perspective, while simultaneously defending the plasticity of the pictorial or the motif. Against all odds, the painted portrait maintained its autonomy and reasserted itself by broadening its horizons and aesthetic possibilities, as the last section of the show featuring the most contemporary artists clearly reveals.