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Exhibition overview

Amedeo Modigliani, The black hair also called Dark-haired girl 1918

Amedeo Modigliani
The black hair/Dark-haired girl, seated (La chevelure noire/Jeune fille brune, assise) 1918
Oil on canvas
92 x 59.5cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris
Photo RMN / © René-Gabriel Ojéda

About the exhibition

‘Picasso & his collection’ will present over 100 works from Pablo Picasso's personal art collection. More than 80 important works by Picasso have been selected to hang alongside works from his collection by friends and contemporaries to highlight their inspiration and direct relationships.

The exhibition includes paintings, drawings and prints by artists such as Matisse, Cézanne, Rousseau, Miró, Modigliani and Vuillard, as well as an extraordinary selection of Oceanic and African works.

This information has been translated and adapted by the Queensland Art Gallery from Picasso: Collectionneur (Reunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1998).


Paul Cézanne
Five bathers (Cinq baigneuses) 1877–78
Oil on canvas
45.8 x 55.7cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

With its representation of men and women bathing, in this painting Cézanne engages the archetype of all classical subjects: the nude. Cézanne here situates himself firmly in tradition and claimed that he wished ’to make Impressionism as solid and durable as the art found in museums’. This work is a precocious demonstration of a return to order and sustains the classical sources of modern art. This small oil painting, which is very similar to the one that Henri Matisse acquired in 1899, was bought by Picasso in 1957 from the Marlborough Gallery in London through the dealer Louise Leiris.

 

Paul Cézanne
The sea at l’Estaque (La mer à l’Estaque) 1878–79
Oil on canvas
73 x 92cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

Cézanne painted the small village of l’Estaque near Marseille more than 20 times. Of particular note in this version is the conjunction of various styles, for the geometric shapes of the houses provide a perfect example of the lineage between Cézanne’s painting and Cubism. Indeed, Picasso would later joke that he was ‘Cézanne’s grandson’. Particularly sensitive to the virtues of this painting’s construction (‘look at the sea, it’s as solid as rock’ he would comment), Picasso acquired the painting in the early 1950s from his banker, Max Pellequer, swapping it for one of his own paintings.


Henri Matisse
Marguerite 1906–07
Oil on canvas
65 x 54cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Marguerite
Hiver 1906-1907

During the Autumn of 1907, Picasso gave Matisse his painting Cruche, bol et citron (Pitcher, bowl and lemon) 1907 (Bâle, Beyeler Foundation), in exchange for this extraordinary portrait painted in Collioure. The simplicity of Matisse’s style here reaches its apogee with the use of large blocks of solid colour and very minimalist touches, with simple lines for the eyes and nose. According to Françoise Gilot, ‘this degree of spontaneity fascinated Picasso who admired the courage it must have taken for this master of Fauvism to express himself with such candour’. Candour, indeed, is the guiding principle for this generation of artists who would take to the extreme the lessons of the ‘kind’ master, Henri Rousseau, African art and anything else that enabled them to reconnect art with its infancy. In this painting, the nose of Marguerite (Matisse’s daughter) is painted as though from the side and recalls the noses of the heroines of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon


Henri Matisse
Tulips and oysters on a black background (Tulipes et huîtres sur fond noir) 1943
Oil on canvas
60.5 x 73cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

This canvas was exhibited in the Salon d’Automne [Autumn Salon] of 1943 and was then given to Picasso by Matisse with a view to an exchange. In these postwar years, even though Matisse was living in Nice and Picasso in Paris, the lives of these two artists had much in common, mostly revolving around their work. The competition between them increasingly gave way to solidarity and exchanges of this kind only reinforced their kinship.

 

Joan Miró
Self portrait (Autoportrait) 1919
Oil on canvas
73 x 60cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

Around 1921, Picasso became the owner of this self-portrait by Miró quite by chance when the latter’s Barcelona-based dealer gave it to Picasso in the hope of currying favour with him. It turned out to be a lucky twist of fate, because Picasso would come to admire this painting with its very personal mix of realism and the ‘classical discipline’ (as Miró put it) of the cubist vocabulary which can be found in the fragmentation of the red shirt. The meticulous attention to detail — the buttons, the patterns and folds of the shirt, the hairs on the body, etc. — is worthy of a miniaturist and anchors the painting in reality. Yet, at the same time, a kind of naivety reminiscent of the old masters or, more recently, of Henri Rousseau, gives the work a popular feeling.


Amedeo Modigliani
The black hair/Dark-haired girl, seated (La chevelure noire/Jeune fille brune, assise) 1918
Oil on canvas
92 x 59.5cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

Modigliani is one of the generation of artists who admired the naivety of Henri Rousseau as much as ‘primitive’ art. In his sculptures he strove for simplicity by taking inspiration from Cycladic figures and African works and then, in 1914, dedicated himself almost exclusively to painting. In his work we see a mannerism inherited from the Symbolists coming face to face with an entirely modern attempt at stylisation and a crudeness of execution. The art critic Adolphe Basler has called him ‘a kind of black Botticelli’ and suggests that ‘the spiritual essence of Modigliani’s art, which is always deeply personal thanks to its sentiment and transposition of reality, is, with its refined style and mannerism, a mix of Florentine elegance, Cubist stylisation and a gothic sense of the tragedy of life’.

 

Edouard Vuillard
The lullaby: Marie Roussel in bed (La berceuse: Marie Roussel au lit) 1894
Oil on cardboard glued on wood panel
26.5 x 48cm
Donation Picasso 1973–78
Collection: musée national Picasso, Paris

This painting, a masterpiece from Vuillard’s Nabi period, explores the world of the artist’s family. We see his sister Marie, who had recently married the painter Ker-Xavier Roussel, in bed, watched over by her mother, an omnipresent figure in Vuillard’s world who here, in profile, seems to carry the formal authority of a goddess–mother. Picasso bought this painting in July 1944 from the Louis Carré Gallery.