For three months in the summer of 1921, Pablo Picasso worked out of a makeshift garage studio in Fontainebleau, France, where he created both cubist and classical masterpieces. Now, for the first time since then, the works are reunited in a sprawling new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.
MoMA's "Picasso in Fontainebleau," on view through February 17, is the latest show in NYC presented as part of the international Picasso celebration marking 50 years since his death. It joins The Met's "Picasso: A Cubist Commission in Brooklyn" and will soon be joined by "Picasso and The Spanish Classics" at the Hispanic Museum.
Starting in July 1921, Picasso and his wife Olga Khokhlova rented a villa in Fontainebleau, France, bringing their five-month-old son with them. As a newly married first-time father, this summer marked a peaceful chapter in the artist's life (a contrast to other points in his life).
The Spanish-born artist thrived as an outsider in France, bending cultural codes and creating works in radically different styles.
The exhibition runs chronologically, beginning before his Fontainebleau summer kicked off. During the spring of that year, Picasso designed sets and costumes for two ballet productions and also scored a gallery show that reinforced his reputation as an artist mastering cubist and classical styles.
Upon arriving at the villa, Picasso sketched the home's rooms and garden, along with tender portraits of his wife and son. The Picassos and their guests also snapped photographs of the building and their activities there, many of which are on display for the first time.
A garage space measuring in at 20 by 10 feet served as Picasso's studio that summer. Using the exact dimensions, MoMA created a room with the garage's footprint, so museum-goers can step inside and imagine creating such large paintings in a small space.
In that garage, Picasso created the cubist "Three Musicians" with colorful geometric shapes as well as the classical "Three Women at the Spring" with references to Greco-Roman antiquity. For the first time in more than a century, MoMA has reunited these works.
Seeing the paintings together emphasizes the interconnectedness of Picasso's process—even across works in radically different styles. This stylistic eclecticism led to much drama among his contemporaries, as they wondered: "Was he progressive or regressive? Aligned with the avant-garde or with the conservative 'return to order'?"
Picasso's decision to paint these works "virtually simultaneously and on a grand scale ... continues to disrupt expectations of artistic evolution and stylistic consistency," the show's curator Anne Umland said in a press release.
"This exhibition," she continued, "extends the museum's commitment to exploring new ways of seeing, thinking about, and interpreting iconic works from the collection."
See "Picasso in Fontainebleau" through February 17, 2024 in the Museum of Modern Art's Edward Steichen Galleries on the third floor of 11 W 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan.