Media release, June 12, 2018

The early PICASSO – Blue and Rose Period

February – May 2019

This exhibition, the most ambitious ever staged by the Fondation Beyeler, is devoted to the paintings and sculptures of the young Pablo Picasso from the so-called Blue and Rose periods, between 1901 and 1906.

For the first time in Europe, the masterpieces of these crucial years, every one of them a milestone on Picasso’s path to preeminence as the twentieth century’s most famous artist, are presented together, in a concentration and quality that are unparalleled. Picasso’s pictures from this phase of creative ferment are some of the finest and most emotionally compelling examples of modern painting, and are counted among the most valuable and sought-after works in the entire history of art. It is unlikely that they will be seen again in such a selection in a single place.

At the age of just twenty, the rising genius Picasso (1881–1973) embarked on a quest for new themes and forms of expression, which he immediately refined to a pitch of perfection. One artistic revolution followed another, in a rapid succession of changing styles and visual worlds. The focus of the exhibition is on the Blue and Rose periods, and thus on the six years in the life of the young Picasso that can be considered central to his entire oeuvre, paving the way for the epochal emergence of Cubism, which developed from Picasso’s previous work, in 1907. Here, the exhibition converges with the Fondation Beyeler’s permanent collection, whose earliest picture by Picasso is a study, dating from this pivotal year, for the Demoiselles d’Avignon.

In the chronologically structured exhibition, Picasso’s early painting career is explored through examples of his treatment of human subjects. Journeying back and forth between Paris and Barcelona, he addressed the human figure in a series of different approaches. In the phase dominated by the color blue, from 1901, he observed the material deprivation and the psychological suffering of people on the margins of society, before turning – in 1905, when he had settled in Paris – to the themes of the Rose period, conferring the dignity of art on the hopes and yearnings of circus performers: jugglers, acrobats and harlequins. In his search for a new artistic authenticity, Picasso stayed for several weeks in mid-1906 in the village of Gósol, in the Spanish Pyrenees, and created a profusion of paintings and sculptures uniting classical and archaic ideals of the body. Finally, the increasing deformation and fragmentation of the figure, apparent in the “primitivist” pictures, especially of the female nude, which were painted subsequently in Paris, heralds the emergence of the new pictorial language of Cubism.

The poignant and magical works of the Blue and Rose periods, painted in Spain and France, have a universal appeal and validity. Existential themes – life, love, sexuality, fate and death – find embodiment in the delicate beauty of young female and male figures, and in depictions of children and of old people scarred by life, whose emotions comprise happiness and joy, but also loneliness and melancholy.

The comprehensive exhibition includes some eighty paintings and sculptures loaned by renowned museums in Europe, the USA, Canada, Russia, China and Japan, such as the Musée national Picasso, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Tate Gallery, London; the National Gallery, Washington, D. C.; the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; the National Museum of Art, Osaka; the Centre Pompidou and the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris; the Museu Picasso, Barcelona; the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. These masterpieces are supplemented by further outstanding works from private collections, some of which will be presented in public for the first time in many decades. In terms of organizational effort and cost, this is the highest-caliber exhibition project in the history of the Fondation Beyeler. Years of preparation have been devoted to the presentation, which is certain to be one of Europe’s cultural highlights in 2019. The works on display are all major attractions in the museums from which they have been assembled. The exhibition is being staged in cooperation with the Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Musée d’Orsay, where it will be shown in a modified form before traveling to Basel.

The exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler is curated by Dr. Raphaël Bouvier, Curator at the Foundation. Information on opening hours, ticket prices, guided tours and special events will be available at from August 2018. Advance ticket sales will begin in November.

The exhibition “The early PICASSO – Blue and Rose Period” is generously supported by: Beyeler-Stiftung Hansjörg Wyss, Wyss Foundation


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