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.

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BE OUR CURATOR: A Social (Media) Experiment

When we cooked up a full-fledged social media strategy for the gallery early last year, we had no idea what we were in for. Twelve months and countless posts, photos, tweets, likes and pins later, we’ve learned a lot. No offense to professors past, but engaging with our vibrant online community of aesthetes has been the best art course we’ve ever taken. It’s high time we thanked you for your passion, so pull out your CV and add “curator” to the list. Starting tomorrow, we’re giving you the opportunity to help us put together a very special show.

COLLECTOR’S CHOICE: 10 Artworks We Love will feature art chosen by online fans across all of our social media platforms. Keep an eye on Matthews Gallery’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other networks from Friday, January 17 through January 30 to vote on your favorite work in our collection. From January 31 through February 5, we’ll unveil your selections in the gallery and online.

Join us as we shatter the definition of an art curator and gallery show. There’s no one we’d rather collaborate with! Learn more about the show on the Matthews Gallery website.

Top 10 Art Books of 2012, Part 2

When the art and publishing worlds work in harmony, imagery merges with typography and innovative formats give us unexpected views of famous works. Through images and prose, our final five picks for 2012’s best art books gave us new eyes: 

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The Art Book, Phaidon- First published by Phaidon in 1994, The Art Book is as intriguingly tangled as ever in its 2012 edition. It’s an art history book made for creatives, its artists presented in alphabetical rather than chronological order. Seventy new artists join the pantheon, encouraging the crackling connections that only The Art Book could provoke. Where else would you find Duccio next to Duchamp or Manet in dialogue with Mangold?

cover of "always looking"

Always Looking: Essays on Art, John Updike- John Updike wasn’t an art critic, but the third, posthumous volume in his Looking series guides us through the crowds at notable exhibitions and along the arc of art history with signature elegance. The collection starts with Updike’s 2008 lecture on American art “The Clarity of Things” and includes 14 essays Updike wrote for The New York Review of Books and other publications.

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Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, Camille Paglia- Paglia kicks off Glittering Images by declaring her intent to help the masses, hypnotized by technology and riddled daily with thousands of disconnected images, understand and appreciate art’s compelling historical sweep. You can’t trust the inflammatory culture warrior for a minute, but that’s what makes the proceedings so fun. Paglia picks 29 of her favorite artworks, from Egyptian funerary imagery to George Lucas’ “Revenge of the Sith”, and presents them as pinnacles of humanity’s artistic legacy. Her selections are mostly confined to the West and heavily weighted to the 20th century, but her arguments are entertaining whether you agree with them or not.

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The Art of Not Making: The New Artist/Artisan Relationship, Michael Petry- Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Murakami Takashi, Ai WeiWei. They’re some of the biggest names in contemporary art, but could you call them artists? Petry examines the Renaissance-old dependence between art and craft—and the questions of authorship that it raises—with images from 115 contemporary artists who don’t always have a hand in creating their work. The book’s five chapters are intriguingly organized by material, a nod to the industries that brought these objects into existence.

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100 Ideas that Changed Art, Michael Bird- Art historian and broadcaster Bird is quick to caution that his numbered list of artistic turning points, from “narrative” (#7) to “street art” (#94), is anything but concrete in its essential properties. “No sooner has an idea changed art that art reformulates that idea, allowing it to recognize itself,” he writes. This collection of 500-word essays is particularly fascinating for the playful lines it draws between modern and contemporary art and works of old. Bird doesn’t shy away from party tricks like comparing Byzantine icons with Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe images, and the results are charming for dilettantes and art experts alike.

Browse our first five selections here, and check out our Twitter and Facebook feeds for more insight.