Expect the unexpected at de Young's Picasso exhibit 

Visitors to the de Young Museum's next monster show, "Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris," should not expect the dark rainbow wall colors that graced the museum's two recent Impressionist exhibits.

According to one of many strict rules from the lending museum, all gallery walls must be white.

Now under renovation, the Picasso museum in France is temporarily spreading its wealth by lending masterpieces to the de Young exhibition, which opens June 11. The Paris museum holds 3,600 works from the incredibly fecund artist's personal collection, which were given to the French government following Pablo Picasso's death in 1973.

Government institutions, by definition, have rules which may well serve management of Picasso’s great treasures, but would likely surprise the artist himself, a man who became the epitome of the unconventional and the adventurous.

For the San Francisco exhbit, some 150 works – paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings – have been selected to fill the exhibit's nine galleries.

Anne Baldassari, director of the Picasso museum (with the title of president, customary in France), is responsible for the selection.

She has done an amazingly thorough job, beginning with the 1901 "Death of Casagemas" by the 20-year-old artist in Gallery 1, and ending the exhibit in the last gallery with "The Musician," the 1972 self-portrait Picasso painted shortly before his death.

Throughout his chameleon-like career, Picasso changed course, broke through barriers, and reinvented himself and art repeatedly and incessantly.

Museum visitors traveling from room to room, and even in one gallery, will encounter not one individual artist, but a host of seemingly unrelated creators.

Besides the great variety of Picasso's Expressionist, Cubist, Neoclassical, Surrealist and other phases and styles, diversity comes to the fore in a single painting.

A prime example is 1918’s "Portrait of Olga in an Armchair,” which pictures Olga Khoklova, Picasso's Ukrainian ballerina wife, grandmother of the present-day Marina Picasso, whose childhood was wrecked by the painter's neglect.

One of Picasso's most conventionally beautiful works, the painting features an idealized, Romantic-style female figure. Yet the figure has to compete with the chair's fascinatingly incongruous flowery fabric, which unexpectedly demands equal attention.

A striking example of the "Picasso impact" is in the exhibit's opulent catalog. Opening the front cover reveals a full page, stunning detail of "Woman Reading," a work in the exhibit.

The extreme enlargement of one tiny area of the painting provides a new, lasting experience – typical of how much in Picasso’s work can be found under the surface.


Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris

Where: de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco
When: Opens June 11; 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, except until 8:45 p.m. Fridays and closed Mondays; exhibition closes Oct. 9
Tickets: $18 to $26
Contact: (888) 901-6645, www.deyoungmuseum.org

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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