login    password    artist  buyer  gallery  
Not a member? Register
Indepth Arts News:

"Picasso érotique"
2001-06-14 until 2001-09-16
Montreal Museum of Fine Art
Montreal, QC, CA

From June 14 to September 16, 2001, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will be hosting an unprecedented exhibition, entitled Picasso érotique. Bringing together approximately 350 works, 40 canvases, 100 gouaches, watercolours and original drawings (including his notebooks), 100 etchings and 30 sculptures and ceramics, this exhibition is designed to elucidate an aspect of Picasso's work all too often suppressed, yet indissociable from his art - eroticism.

To date, no museum has ever undertaken to present this essential dimension of the artist's creations. These works express a rare audacity and spirit of freedom, but have received very limited public exposure. Indeed, the presentation at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a premiere event in North America. The exhibition Picasso érotique is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in co-production with the Réunion des musées nationaux, France, the Musée national Picasso, Paris, the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona. The collection began its tour in Paris, at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, February 19 to May 20, 2001, and will conclude at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, October 25, 2001, to January 25, 2002. Montreal will be the only North American city to host the exhibition.

Art is never chaste (Pablo Picasso)
Love, desire and sex are inextricably linked to Picasso's work, whose creative genius was unfettered by sexual hypocrisy. Eroticism was a constant source of inspiration for Picasso and is manifest in works from his early youth. Nearing the end of his life, when Picasso reached the last leg of his artistic journey (as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century), he was still triumphantly expressing the same obsessive theme in his works. In fact, throughout his career, Picasso never stopped painting, drawing and representing intimate scenes, majestic nudes, enticing bodies, couples holding each other and lovers in the throes of torrid embraces. His depictions are ingenious, tender, humorous, fiery, violent and passionate.

Survey of works

The Early Years
By the time he was twenty, Picasso was frequenting the seamy neighbourhoods of Barcelona. At that time, a large portion of his work was dedicated to his first sexual experiences (Embrace, Two Figures and a Cat, The Brothers Mateu and Ángel Fernández de Soto, with Anita, El Virgo and The Mackerel). The prostitutes he painted and drew (in his Carnet, or sketchbook) inspired the very famous Demoiselles d'Avignon. This brothel scene, both imagined and experienced around Carrer d'Avinyò (Avignon) in Barcelona, marked the birth of cubism. Around the same time, we also see the artist's first representations of embraces, associated with meeting Fernande Olivier.

Between the Wars
From his depictions of Olga to those of Marie-Thérèse, the artist never ceased to explore, deconstruct and reinvent bodies, the objects of his desire (as in Reclining Nude, Woman in an Armchair, Nude in a Garden, Figures at the Seashore and Coupling) and of his violent urges (as in The Kiss and The Rape). During this period, Marie-Thérèse Walter is represented alone and asleep, epitomizing amorous bliss. In both Picasso's paintings and his sculpture, she is depicted as the artist's model or is confronted with the Minotaur (as in Minotaur Raping a Woman). This theme disappears after Dora and the Minotaur.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Picasso produced - in various styles and techniques - numerous works based on the themes of the kiss, the embrace, copulation, bestiality, exhibitionism and orgies. At 80 years of age, Picasso worked more intensively as an etcher. More than 60 years after he produced his first brothel scenes, the same theme reappeared-but, at this late juncture, it was more of a fantasy than a lived reality. Of course, the theme of the voyeur was also present in these pieces. The various suites of etchings produced during this period include Raphael and La Fornarina and The Maison Tellier (inspired by some Degas monotypes), and his Celestinas combine humour and a certain degree of remoteness. In etchings and drawings from this period, Picasso focussed especially on the erotic charge produced in the relationship between painter and model.

Works suppressed by puritanism
Incredible blasts of eroticism permeate all of Picasso's work, including his written work. The act of creation evoked tornadoes of desire in him, says Jean-Jacques Lebel, guest curator for the presentation of the Montreal exhibition. But this wild relationship with Eros, one of the great driving forces of Picasso's work, was denied and downplayed throughout the 20th century in various ways. Art sellers and gallery owners felt that the heightened sensuality in some of Picasso's works might alienate him from private and public collectors in the United States. Fearing a puritanical or prudish backlash against the artist, they therefore relegated these works to his studio or held clandestine exhibits in art galleries. Picasso's erotic or blatantly pornographic works got a chilly reception from official art circles in France, known for their conservatism-only much later did these milieus reluctantly acknowledge the artist's innovations. After World War II, Picasso joined the French Communist Party, further quelling enthusiasm for his bold works, which were far removed from the puritanical diktats of his new entourage. In Spain, it was not until the death of Franco in 1975 that some works from the beginning of the century, formerly deemed overly provocative, were at last shown.

In the early 1970s, these audacious works had only begun to be exhibited and remained largely misunderstood. During the 1973 exhibit in Avignon, one prudish critic took umbrage, accusing the last luminary of modern art of libidinous exhibitionism.

It is true that these fascinating-disturbing images may give viewers the odd impression that they have just indiscreetly barged into a private room where they ought to have knocked before entering. However, there is no gratuitous sensationalism to be found in these saucy, jubilant visions.

Eros and Thanatos
In his twilight years, the odes to pleasure and sensuality infusing all of Picasso's work were born of powerful meditations and were produced amid eruptions of Eros, the life breath of art and creation. At this time, Picasso was doing battle with Thanatos (Death) by symbolically exorcising its approach. Thus, it would be simplistic to attribute Picasso's extraordinary explosion of eroticism in his later years to the lascivious compulsions of a lustful old man. To do so would to be to repudiate the genius that still inhabited the artist, who was redoubling his struggle against time at age 85. Picasso, rebelling against the idea that one day his life must end, committed to paper and canvases the life force that remained within him. By expressing his desire, says Jean-Jacques Lebel, Picasso found the courage to face death.

A universal artistic approach
It should be stressed that Picasso was not the first artist to produce erotically inspired paintings. Eroticism can be found throughout art history, from Antiquity and the Renaissance up to Delacroix, Manet, Courbet, Degas, and among many other painters who were of great interest to Picasso.

The catalogue
The exhibit is complemented by a generously illustrated 368-page catalogue, published in English by Prestel and French by Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux. Contributing authors include, Jean Clair, Marie-Noëlle Delorme, Dominique Dupuis-Labbé, Malén Gual, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Marilyn McCully, Maria Teresa Ocaña, Robert Rosenblum and Brigitte Baer. Writers Pascal Quignard, Annie Le Brun, and Patrick Roegiers are also special contributors to this publication.

Related Links:


    Discover over 150,000 works of contemporary art. Search by medium, subject matter, price and theme... research over 200,000 works by over 22,000 masters in the indepth art history section. Browse through new Art Blogs. Use our advanced artwork search interface.

    Call for Artists, Premiere Portfolio sign-up for your Free Portfolio or create an Artist Portfolio today and sell your art at the marketplace for contemporary Art! Start a Gallery Site to exclusively showcase your gallery. Keep track of contemporary art with your free MYabsolutearts account.


    Copyright 1995-2013. World Wide Arts Resources Corporation. All rights reserved