Picasso in Winnipeg: An Unparalleled Display of Works

Throughout the summer, fans of Pablo Picasso are in for a major treat at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). The WAG’s Picasso experience includes two exhibitions: Picasso: Man and Beast. The Vollard Suite of Prints, and Picasso in Canada.

Featured last year at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), The Vollard Suite of Prints includes all 100 etching and drypoints from the celebrated Suite. Its 2016 presentation was the first time the series had been on view at the NGC in its entirety in nearly sixty years, and its presentation at the WAG is likely to be the last for some years to come. As Dr. Stephen Borys, Director and CEO of the WAG, noted in an interview with NGC Magazine, “Because the works are incredibly fragile and light-sensitive, after the Winnipeg showing, the suite will go back into storage for probably a decade. So, this is an incredible opportunity for WAG visitors.”

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Minotaur Kneeling over Sleeping Girl, 18 June 1933, drypoint on Montval laid paper, 33.5 x 44.5 cm (plate: 29.6 x 36.6 cm). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (no. 7241). © Picasso Estate / SODRAC (2017)

 

Display of the Vollard Suite at the WAG came about through a conversation with National Gallery Director and CEO, Marc Mayer. Borys learned that the NGC was planning to display the Suite, which, he notes, “has only been lent out in its entirety maybe once or twice since acquired. So, of course I was interested in seeing if, through the NGC@WAG partnership, there might be any chance it could travel to Winnipeg.”

Once Picasso: Man and Beast. The Vollard Suite of Prints had been confirmed for display at the WAG, Borys set about organizing a smaller exhibition, exploring how Canadian museums have collected Picasso over the years.

Acting as curator, Borys secured about thirty-five works (paintings, drawings, watercolours, prints, and ceramics) from nine Canadian institutions and three local private collections, effectively charting Picasso’s career over about six decades. Featuring loans from across the country, Picasso in Canada offers a fascinating overview of the artist’s life, and serves as a nice segue to the Vollard Suite

“Picasso is often called ‘the most influential artist of the 20th century,’” says Borys, “and I believe this is true. He produced art for over seven decades, and his artistic presence occupies much of the 20th century. For every decade of his production, he was also rethinking, reinventing, and approaching his art in a new and impactful way.”

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Minotaur Defeated by Youth in Arena, 29 May 1933, etching on Montval laid paper, 33.8 x 44.6 cm (plate: 19.4 x 27 cm). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (no. 7237). © Picasso Estate / SODRAC (2017)

 

When asked to highlight a couple of favourites, Borys singled out the drawing from the NGC, A Woman with a Necklace (1920) and the canvas Seated Woman (1927) from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). “A Woman with a Necklace is incredibly simple, unpretentious,” he says, “showing the artist at a critical moment in Cubism when, after dismantling the body, has brought it back together in a different way, creating this pleasing composition.”

With regard to Seated Woman (Femme Assise), Borys says it “is probably the most celebrated painting by Picasso in this country. It’s a large work — close to five feet in height. While called The Seated Woman, it’s really a triple portrait of his wife, Olga, his son, Paulo, and the artist himself.”

Borys also remarked on the ceramics in the exhibition. “There are ten different pieces — vases, bowls, and plates — stunning works in a range of colours and finishes. Picasso treated ceramic almost like the canvas, and he often loved the process of painting, glazing, and firing the works.”

According to Andrew Kear, the WAG’s Chief Curator and Curator of Canadian Art, when the WAG recently exhibited a show of Chagall’s Daphnis & Chloe series, it was reminded of Picasso’s Vollard Suite.

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Two Sculptors, Two Models, and Sculpture, 20 March 1933, etching on Montval laid paper, 34.1 x 43.9 cm (plate: 19.5 x 26.7 cm). National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (no. 7180). © Picasso Estate / SODRAC (2017)

 

“We thought it would be a good idea to bring Picasso to people’s attention here in Winnipeg through the Vollard Suite,” Kear told NGC Magazine. “We benefit greatly from this relationship with the NGC, which allows us to bring in works from the NGC collection. In the Suite, Picasso explores sub-duality: man and beast, love and death, tenderness and violence.”

Of the WAG’s summer Picasso experience, Borys adds, “It’s one of these once-in-a-lifetime chance to see two very different shows focused on one artist. We also have some exciting programming going on: lectures, tours, films, workshops, art camps, and themed dinners, so it’s going to be a very special summer for Picasso in Winnipeg.”

Picasso in Canada and Picasso: Man and Beast. The Vollard Suite of Prints are on view at the WAG until August 13, 2017. For more information, please click here.

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