Picasso: Masterpieces from Musée National Picasso, Paris | At VMFA in Richmond, VA

Treats for the Mind - Museums & Exhibitions

Picasso's Art Comes to Richmond, Virginia

Picasso_Two_Women_Running_on_BeachThe Virginia Museum of Fine Arts proudly announces a landmark exhibition in honor of its 75th anniversary, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. VMFA is the only East Coast venue for the exhibition’s seven-city international tour. The exhibition, which will be on view from February 19 through May 15, 2011, is co-organized by the Musée National Picasso, Paris and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Tickets are available now.

Drawn from the collection of the Musée National Picasso in Paris, the largest and most significant repository of the artist’s work in the world, this exhibition represents works produced during every major artistic period of Pablo Picasso’s eight-decade career. It includes 176 works from Picasso’s personal collection – art that he kept for himself with the purpose of shaping his own legacy. Altria is the presenting sponsor for the exhibition.

“By bringing this major international exhibition to the Commonwealth,” Governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell said, “the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating its 75th anniversary year in a significant way by presenting a remarkable gift to all Virginians and Americans.  I encourage all our citizens and those outside the Commonwealth to come visit Virginia's museum and enjoy the Picasso exhibition. Virginia is a wonderful destination for so many experiences, including world-class art.”

VMFA Director Alex Nyerges said, “This exhibition is without a doubt a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the American public.  An exhibition this monumental is extremely rare, especially one that spans the entire career of a figure who many consider the most influential, innovative and creative artist of the 20th century.”

In addition to showcasing some of Picasso’s most outstanding works, the exhibition tells a compelling story about the development of the artist’s career, his artistic inspirations, and his profound impact on modern art.

The unique opportunity to exhibit Picasso’s work at this time is possible because the Musée Picasso National in Paris is closed for renovations until 2012, allowing for a global tour of this full-scale survey to travel for the first and possibly only time.  

“We are extremely proud to be partnering with VMFA to bring such a significant art exhibition to our Richmond headquarters community,” said Marty Barrington, vice chairman of Altria and VMFA trustee. “With the Picasso exhibition, VMFA continues to realize its vision of world-class quality that will make Richmond a leading destination for fine art in the United States. Altria is pleased to support this exhibition, which will enrich our Richmond community in many ways.”

An exhibition sponsor's preview will take place on February 16 to celebrate the arrival of Picasso’s work.  An Opening Night Benefit is also scheduled for February 19.

About the Art
Renowned worldwide, the collection from the Musée National Picasso, Paris is unique because it represents the pieces that Picasso set aside for his own personal collection. Acting almost as a curator for his art, Picasso kept some of his most iconic pieces from each phase of his work, including the Blue Period, Rose Period, Cubism, the return to Classicism, Surrealism, and his later work.

The exhibition will showcase moments and art that defined Picasso’s early career, including a deathbed portrait of the artist’s close friend Carlos Casagemas. His friend’s suicide partially influenced Picasso’s famed Blue Period, defined by somber paintings in shades of blue and green. Celéstina (The Woman with One-Eye) (1904), a masterpiece from the Blue Period, will be featured in the exhibition.

Friends, lovers, and artists who influenced Picasso play a seminal role in the exhibition. Portraits of his mistresses, such as Reading (1932) and Portrait of Dora Maar (1937), feature his muses in various emotional states ranging from regal composure to inconsolable despair. Works ranging from studies for his early groundbreaking  Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), to some of the last works of his career show his connection to, and often competition with, other notable artists from his past and present such as Henri Matisse,  Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, and Diego Velázquez. The exhibition includes examples of almost every medium in which Picasso worked –oil on canvas and panel, cast bronze, carved wood, assemblages of found materials, watercolors, drawings in pastel, charcoal, pencil, and ink; various printmaking techniques, and illustrated books.  

While Picasso contributed to and even inspired countless movements, he and Braques co-invented an entirely new movement: Cubism. Focused on fragmentation, shifting planes, and skewed perspectives, Cubism revolved around the deconstruction and reconstruction of figures and objects on two-dimensional surfaces or in space with new materials. The exhibition includes classical examples of Analytic Cubism, such as the famous Parisian landmark Le Sacré-Coeur (1909-1910), and several paintings of figures with musical instruments where the subjects are torqued and faceted almost beyond recognition.

About the Artist
Born in the southern Spanish city of Málaga in 1881, Pablo Picasso’s towering reputation spanned a long and productive career that began at a young age. After studying art in Barcelona—where he entered the School of Fine Arts at age thirteen—and Madrid, he first traveled to Paris in 1900, the city whose art and culture would greatly influence him and where he would first make his mark.  By the time of his death in 1973 he had created an astounding 50,000 works in many different artistic mediums.

Picasso frequently shifted from one stylistic mode to another, moving through various forms of expression to match his protean vision and resist being constrained by any single style or movement.  His exploration of different theories and techniques led to art that was inspired by Classicism, Surrealism, and African art, among other sources.

Involved in almost every artistic movement during his lifetime, he is recognized as one of the most powerful and creative forces of the 20th century. Never one to rest on his laurels, Picasso was constantly reinventing himself and searching for new sources of inspiration, both from the modern age and from the work of past artists and artworks.  This exhibition offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand the depth and breadth of Picasso’s genius. His revolutionary artistic achievements brought him universal praise and fame, and his art continues to inspire viewers as well as artists in a range of creative fields.


Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), Summer 1922, Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) 

gouache on plywood, 12 13/16 x 16 3/16 in. (32.5 x 41.1 cm). Musée National Picasso, Paris ©2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY 


Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937, Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) oil on canvas, 361⁄4 x 25 9/16 in. (92 x 65 cm). Musée National Picasso, Paris ©2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Réunion des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY 

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