On the Beach – Pablo Picasso

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Last weekend the 57th Venice Biennale closed its doors. I will soon share my favourites but let’s go to the beach first!
I stumbled upon a highly interesting ‘work in focus’ exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice. It brings together three masterpieces painted by Pablo Picasso within the span of a few days in February 1937. The 3 canvases are painted at Tremblay-sur-Mauldre, France.
The painting On the Beach which belongs to the Peggy Guggenheim collection is presented for the first time alongside Woman seated on the Beach from the Musée des Beaux Arts of Lyon and Large Bather with a Book from the Musée national Picasso in Paris. Luca Massimo Barbero, who conceived the exhibition, generously put these 3 works in context by presenting sketches of Picasso showing the artists’ process and ideas.

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Picasso – On the Beach, 12 Feb 1937 (oil, conté crayon and chalk on canvas)

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Picasso – Study for ‘On the Beach’, 12 Feb 1937 (pencil, charcoal and blue pastel on laid paper)

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Picasso – Study for ‘On the Beach’, 12 Feb 1937 (pencil on paper)

 

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Picasso – Woman seated on the Beach, 10 Feb 1937 (oil, charcoal and pastel on canvas)

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Picasso – Study for ‘Woman Seated on the Beach’, 10 Feb 1237 (pen and ink on paper)

2 preparatory drawings for On the Beach shed light on the genesis of the painting. One of these, only recently identified in a private collection, is the study that Dora Maar received as a gift from Picasso when they were lovers and conserved until her death. A third study, formerly in the collection of one of the artist’s grand-daughters, Marina Picasso, is for Woman Seated on the Beach. The selection of drawings executed between February and December of 1937 testify to Picasso’s interest in the theme of bathers, to which he returned frequently over the course of his life.

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Picasso – Large Bather with a Book, 18 Feb 1937 (oil, charcoal and pastel on canvas)

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Picasso – Bather, 6 feb 1937 (pencil on paper)

 

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Picasso – Bather by a Cabin Skipping Rope, 6 Feb 1937 (wax crayon on fine grain tick tracing paper)
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Picasso – Two Nudes on the Beach, 1 May 1937 (India ink, pastel and pencil on mahogany panel)

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Picasso – On the Beach, 30 Dec 1937 (pencil on squared paper)

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Picasso – On the Beach, 30 Dec 1937 (pencil on squared paper)

1937 was a crucial year for Picasso’s work and for the historical events against which it is set: the Nazi were consolidating their power in Europe and supporting Franco’s policies in Spain. These circumstances, among others, would eventually lead to the outbreak of the Second World War. The pair of engravings Picasso produced in January 1937 titled The Dream and Lie of Franco are also on display introducing the great themes of Guernica.

On the Beach is a gem of a ‘work in focus’ exhibition on Pablo Picasso, still on view in the Peggy Guggenheim museum Venice till 7 January 2018.

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