Picasso: Past, Present and Future!

Pablo Picasso and sister Lola- Matthews Gallery blogPicasso and his sister Lola. He was about 8 years old
in this picture,
and already had some swagger.

In the art world, it’s a holiday. Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain on October 25, 1881. In the 133 years since, the artist has irrevocably changed the way we look at art— and the world around it.

We’re frequently struck by the way Picasso would capture an artist’s attention and radically alter his or her course. Just look at this 1955 lithograph by Italian futurist Gino Severini, which is often mistaken for a Picasso by gallery visitors. French artist Jean-Pierre Jouffroy shifted from figurative artwork to pure abstraction after studying Picasso and his contemporaries, and Robert Motherwell‘s decision to become an artist hinged on a European tour of modern masterworks.

On this momentous day, we’re looking back at every Picasso that has passed through our gallery. Each one has a fascinating story… Pablo Picasso- Les Saltimbanque- Matthews Gallery blog Les Saltimbanques is the earliest work by Picasso we’ve ever exhibited. It’s a drypoint from 1905, when the artist was about 24. It was commissioned by legendary art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who gave Picasso his first gallery show in 1901. The frolicking figures are characters from an opera-comique about a circus troupe. An early appearance by the harlequin (far right) is notable, as the archetype would become one of Picasso’s most-used personal symbols.

Pablo Picasso- Personnages Masques et Femme Oiseau- Matthews Gallery blog

Fast forward to 1930. With the help of Vollard, Picasso had built his name into the first true global artistic brand. In yet another stroke of marketing genius, Vollard commissioned Picasso to create a series of 100 etchings—including several portraits of the dealer himself. The star of the Vollard Suite is the minotaur (second from left), another one of Picasso’s personal symbols. At the beginning of the series the minotaur is a virile beast, but by the end he is blind and weak, relying on a beautiful young muse to guide him. Completed in 1937, it’s the middle-aged Picasso’s meditation on his waning virility.

Pablo Picasso- Alex Maguy Gallery- Matthews Gallery blog

A youthful face peers from this offset lithograph Picasso designed for the Alex Maguy gallery in 1962. The exhibition was a retrospective of his artwork, but those captivating, wonder-filled eyes hardly hint at the darker themes the octogenarian turned to in his later years.

Pablo Picasso- 156 Suite- Matthews Gallery blog Picasso created the 156 Suite in 1971, not long before his death. Some consider the etchings to be his most personal series, a diary of a man struggling with impotence and pushing helplessly against the inevitable.

In contrast to our print from the Vollard Suite, women take the dominant role in these works. Models turn on artists, witch doctors stab at their patients and—in the case of this print—prostitutes tangle at a brothel while a man looks on, paralyzed. The gentleman is Degas, who appears in several prints in the series and with whom Picasso felt solidarity in his struggles.

Pablo Picasso 1971- Matthews Gallery blog Check out our Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest profiles today for more insight on Picasso, and learn more about all of the artwork in this post on our homepage.

ONE WORK OF ART: Jean-Pierre Jouffroy

Jean-Pierre Jouffroy- Untitled Modernist Landscape- Matthews Gallery Blog
Two photographs.

Jean-Pierre Jouffroy - Matthews Gallery BlogOne shows a young artist with a determined look in his eyes, and the other an older gentleman at the opening of an 80-year retrospective of his artwork. What happened in the span between the shots?

Sometimes art by Picasso or Gauguin finds its way to our gallery, but other times we get our hands on an exquisite work that bears a name we’ve never heard before. Such was the case with this lovely 1940’s painting by a man named Jean-Pierre Jouffroy, which reminded us of the artwork of James Brooks and other lyrical abstractionists.

Thank goodness for Google. An image search of the artist’s name brought up these two photos, and some French-to-English translating revealed the fascinating story behind them.

Jean-Pierre Jouffroy was born in Paris in 1933. When he was 11 years old, he saw the work of Wassily Kandinsky and Nicolas de Staël in a gallery and fell in love with modernism. “As a young boy, I dreamed of covering the surface of the earth in paint,” Jouffroy recalls.

Early in his career, the artist created purely abstract work that was heavily influenced by Staël. Then, in the late 1950’s, Jouffroy had an artistic epiphany.

“An abstract painting always shows something, like it or not,” he explains. “The painting is the image of an internal battle. This fight is itself a metaphor for our relationships in the social sphere.” Based on this realization, Jouffroy decided to incorporate the visual vocabulary of abstraction into representational work.

The shift sent the artist on a journey that traced the innovations of modernists like Picasso and Cezanne in reverse. Just like those artists, Jouffroy was experimenting with abstracted figures and landscapes, but he was coming from a wholly nonrepresentational world that his predecessors never explored. In tributes to Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet and Braque, he brought great artists of the past into harmony with a movement they all, in one way or another, helped to inspire.

Jouffroy’s new explorations caught the eye of the art world, and he exhibited at Paris’ Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and other renowned institutions. Though he was focused on figurative work, he was often associated with lyrical abstraction (as we suspected) because of his background, his loose brushwork and his inventive use of color.

Our Jouffroy painting represents an interesting phase in the artist’s evolution. Though it predates his representational work, it has undeniable elements of landscape. Perhaps it’s the first sign of the transformation that would send Jouffroy’s career in a spectacular new direction. You can see echoes of the work’s palette and brushwork throughout the artist’s retrospective at the Place du Colonel Fabien that opened in November.

Check out Jean-Pierre Jouffroy’s “Untitled (Modernist Landscape)” on our website, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter for more gallery news.