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What does ‘masterpiece’ mean to Pablo Picasso?

4 September, 2018

The Three Dancers. Pablo Picasso

The exhibition Picasso. Masterpieces ! seeks to answer this question by assembling many of Picasso’s great works from around the world.

Thanks to exceptional loans, masterpieces from all over the world will dialogue with those from the collection of the Musée national Picasso-Paris to offer a new interpretation of Picasso’s creations, with particular attention to the critical reception of his works.

Focusing on past exhibitions, reviews, and texts, this show explores how Picasso’s works have become, throughout the years, iconic masterpieces.

The archives of the Musée national Picasso-Paris play an essential role in recounting this story.

The artist at work is a running theme in Picasso’s oeuvre. His many self-portraits, alone or with a model, are also reflections on the creative process. One of the most prolific painters of the 20th century, relentlessly seeking new modes of expression, Picasso dedicated his life to a quest similar to that of Frenhofer.

Through a selection of key works, milestones of Picasso’s artistic career, the exhibition “Picasso: Masterpieces!” looks back at this journey.

The exhibition examines the events that helped make each piece an icon of art.

Throughout the 20th century, from the academic tradition to modern revolutions, Picasso’s pursuits radically defined the concept of the masterpiece.


When he discovered Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907, Georges Braque said, “It is as though, with your painting, you wanted us to eat oakum or drink oil.”

From its creation until its exhibition at the Salon d’Antin in Paris in 1916, the work evoked reactions of indifference, incomprehension and rejection.

An emblematic canvas of the pictorial revolutions of the 20th century, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was a foundational work in the bith of cubism.

Jacques Doucet bought the piece in 1924 at the recommendation of poet André Breton, who was, at the time, one of the few able to recognize the significance of the acquisition. However, when the designer died, the work returned to the art market.

It joined the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1939. This institutional recognition conferred upon the painting the status of a modern masterpiece, more than thirty years after it was first created. Les Demoiselles
d’Avignon no longer travels.

The artist kept many studies for the painting throughout his life which today shed light on the genesis of the work. These studies have become icons of the Musée national Picasso-Paris.


Top Image: Les Trois danseuses. Pablo Picasso, 1925. Tate Gallery, Londres. Photo © Tate Gallery, Londres
© Succession Picasso


4 September, 2018
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Musée Picasso
5 Rue de Thorigny
Paris, 75003 France
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