The first exhibition in DC in 25 years to focus on Picasso’s early works
WASHINGTON, DC—Picasso: Painting the Blue Period, co-organized by The Phillips Collection and the Art Gallery of Ontario, is the culmination of more than twelve years of scientific and curatorial research on Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period artworks. Comprised of artworks from 30 international collections, the exhibition will feature more than 90 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by Picasso along with works by French and Spanish artists that he studied before and during the Blue Period. The exhibition provides new insight into his creative process, including visual documentation of groundbreaking technical studies, which initially began in the Phillips’s Sherman Fairchild Conservation Studio. The Phillips Collection’s presentation of Picasso: Painting the Blue Period will be on view February 26 through June 12, 2022, following its run at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, where it will close on January 16. It is the first exhibition in Washington, DC, in 25 years to focus on Picasso’s early works.
“Our centennial celebrations culminate with this critical examination of Picasso’s artwork,” says Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection Dr. Dorothy Kosinski. “The exhibition highlights how the Phillips is leading the field with our conservation technical studies and scholarly research, demonstrating how this kind of close examination leads to new discoveries.”
The Blue Period marks a pivotal moment in Picasso’s career when he found his own distinct voice that would come to define his work over the next seven decades. The young Spanish artist, then a fledgling painter in his late teens and early twenties moving between Barcelona and Paris, formulated his signature Blue Period style by engaging with the subject matter and motifs in specific works he encountered by Old Masters and his contemporaries alike. The Blue Period works in the exhibition reveal Picasso’s evolving and sometimes controversial approach to issues of sex, class, poverty, despair, charity, and female incarceration. More than a century later, we are still dealing with and discussing these themes, and many have been amplified due to the pandemic.
“We are thrilled for our community to experience these masterpieces and learn about these iconic artworks from a variety of perspectives,” says Phillips Curator Susan Behrends Frank, who co-curated the exhibition with Kenneth Brummel, associate curator of modern art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. “The Phillips Collection is a small museum with a big museum approach to conservation as a partner with the curators. My nearly decade of research on Pablo Picasso and his work, and the efforts of our conservation team and exhibition partner, show that there is always more to discover within art history.”
At the heart of Picasso: Painting the Blue Period is new scientific and art historical research undertaken on the three Blue Period paintings in the collections of the two co-organizing institutions: The Blue Room (Paris, 1901) from The Phillips Collection, and Crouching Beggarwomen (Barcelona, 1902) and The Soup (Barcelona, 1903) from the Art Gallery of Ontario. The research on The Blue Room was led by The Phillips Collection’s Associate Conservator Patricia Favero. Research on the two Blue Period periods in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario was led by Conservator Emerita Sandra Webster-Cook. This is the first exhibition to approach the Blue Period in this manner. These studies form the technical foundation of the exhibition, establishing context for these works with particular focus on the underlying hidden compositions and motifs newly revealed beneath each work. The exhibition’s final section tracks how Picasso revisited and repurposed themes from the three works into the late Blue Period and early Rose Period of 1905–1906.
The Phillips Collection’s in-house Sherman Fairchild Conservation Studio has operated since 1987, conserving and researching the masterpieces of artists like Vincent van Gogh, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Wassily Kandinsky, Honoré Daumier, and Georges Braque. Favero’s work on The Blue Room pre-dates the planning of Picasso: Painting the Blue Period: she began her research on the painting in 2008—first using X-radiography and infrared imaging, and then working with scientists nationally and internationally to examine the painting with state-of-the-art spectroscopic techniques. This research and its discoveries became the genesis for the exhibition project, and further investigations continued through 2019.
“Much of our conservation team’s work is done behind the scenes,” says Phillips Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele. “Sharing this discovery with the public is a unique chance to spotlight the science of preserving art.”
Picasso: Painting the Blue Period
The National Arts Club
November 16, 2021, 1pm | Free/online/open registration
Gary Tinterow, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Dr. Susan Behrends Frank, Curator, The Phillips Collection
Kenneth Brummel, Associate Curator, Modern Art, Art Gallery of Ontario
How seven-year research project has transformed scholars’ understanding of one the most celebrated episodes of 20th century modernism.
This program is presented in partnership with the Council for Canadian American Relations and the Embassy of Canada, as part of a series exploring artists and their work based on select traveling exhibitions.
High-resolution press images are available upon request. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: Pablo Picasso, The Blue Room, 1901, Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 24 1/4 in., The Phillips Collection, Acquired 1927 © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Picasso: Painting the Blue Period is co-curated by Susan Behrends Frank, Curator at The Phillips Collection, and Kenneth Brummel, Associate Curator of Modern Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Technical research was led by Patricia Favero, Associate Conservator at The Phillips Collection, and Sandra Webster-Cook, Conservator Emerita at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Picasso: Painting the Blue Period is co-organized by The Phillips Collection and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Canada) with the exceptional support of the Musée national Picasso-Paris.
The exhibition and its publication are generously supported by the Frauke de Looper Trust, the Ednah Root Foundation, Share Fund, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Additional support provided by Lee M. Yarbro
Made possible by The Phillips Collection’s Exhibitions Endowment Fund, which is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, Michelle and Glenn Engelmann, Robert and Debra Drumheller, and The Marion F. Goldin Charitable Fund
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
ABOUT THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, was founded in 1921. The museum houses one of the world’s most celebrated Impressionist and American modern art collections, and continues to grow its collection with important contemporary voices. Its distinctive building combines extensive new galleries with the former home of its founder, Duncan Phillips. The Phillips’s impact spreads nationally and internationally through its diverse and experimental special exhibitions and events, including its award-winning education programs for educators, students, and adults; renowned Phillips Music series; and dynamic art and wellness and Phillips after 5 events. The museum contributes to global dialogues with events like Conversations with Artists and Artists of Conscience. The Phillips Collection values its community partnership with THEARC—the museum’s satellite campus in Southeast DC. The Phillips Collection is a private, non-government museum, supported primarily by donations.