Pablo Picasso (after) Étude de décor pour le ballet Pulcinella [ca. 1920] Jacomet process | BnF / Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra © Succession Picasso 2018

Picasso et la danse. The exhibition in Paris.

June 20, 2018

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Picasso et la danse (Picasso and dance) opened yesterday, June 19, in Paris at the Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Palais Garnier.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Opéra national de Paris explore the various facets of Picasso’s relationship to dance, from Picasso’s role as set and costume designer for the Ballets Russes to the place that this art played in his work. Through some 130 works and documents rarely presented in France, the exhibition discloses the major role of dance in Picasso’s life.

Pablo Picasso (after), Le Tricorne: final set model (1919) plate from the portfolio: Trente-deux reproductions de maquettes en couleurs d'après les originaux des costumes et décors par Picasso pour le ballet Le Tricorne Paris, P. Rosenberg, 1920 | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018
Pablo Picasso (after), Le Tricorne: final set model (1919) plate from the portfolio: Trente-deux reproductions de maquettes en couleurs d’après les originaux des costumes et décors par Picasso pour le ballet Le Tricorne Paris, P. Rosenberg, 1920 | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018

Very early in his career, Picasso gave a significant place to dance. However, he really discovered the ballet world from the 1910s and his first collaborations with Serge Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes. For Picasso, this company was the opportunity of important encounters: with his future wife, dancer Olga Khokhlova, but also with new collaborators and friends such as Léonide Massine and Jean Cocteau of whom he drew caricatures. The artist also started to draw moving ballerinas and bodies. The exhibition presents a selection of drawings as well as an original portrait of Boris Kochno, the right-hand man of Diaghilev.

Pablo Picasso Bacchanale avec une femme assise tenant un bébé, 1959 color linocut | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018
Pablo Picasso Bacchanale avec une femme assise tenant un bébé, 1959 color linocut | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018

Picasso participated in about ten ballet productions. Sometimes, he was only involved in the creation of a simple stage curtain or gave a few indications to have it carried out; however, he was fully involved in four major productions between 1917 and 1924: Parade (1917), The Three-Cornered Hat (1919), Pulcinella (1920) and Mercure (1924).

Pablo Picasso, Project pour le rideau de scène du ballet Parade, [1916-1917] Graphite pencil and watercolor on paper | Musée national Picasso-Paris Donation Pablo Picasso, 1979, MP1557 © Succession Picasso 2018
Pablo Picasso, Project pour le rideau de scène du ballet Parade, [1916-1917] Graphite pencil and watercolor on paper | Musée national Picasso-Paris Donation Pablo Picasso, 1979, MP1557 © Succession Picasso 2018
A major part of the exhibition is dedicated to the ballets which corresponded to essential moments in the artist’s life. His costumes of managers, conceived like cubist sculptures, but also his horse inspired by the circus world, contributed to the scandal of Parade;

Pablo Picasso (d’après), Project of costume for the ballet Le Tricorne: a neighbour (1919) plate from the portfolio: Trente-deux reproductions de maquettes en couleurs d’après les originaux des costumes et décors par Picasso pour le ballet Le Tricorne Paris, P. Rosenberg, 1920 | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018
Pablo Picasso (d’après), Project of costume for the ballet Le Tricorne: a neighbour (1919) plate from the portfolio: Trente-deux reproductions de maquettes en couleurs d’après les originaux des costumes et décors par Picasso pour le ballet Le Tricorne Paris, P. Rosenberg, 1920 | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018

his colorful costumes played a major part in the huge success of The Three-Cornered Hat. For Mercure, getting free from the influence of the Ballets Russes, Picasso realized sets and costumes consisting in a series of surrealist ‘plastic poses’; once again, they caused controversy during the first night.

Attilio Labis in the title role of Icarus | Palais Garnier, Paris, 1962 | © Roger Pic / BnF / Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra © Succession Picasso 2018
Attilio Labis in the title role of Icarus | Palais Garnier, Paris, 1962 | © Roger Pic / BnF / Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra © Succession Picasso 2018

Forty years later, the revival of his ballet Icare (1962) by Serge Lifar was the opportunity of Picasso’s only collaboration with the Opéra de Paris. Drawings, prints, manuscripts, costumes and historical photographs illustrate the significant involvement of Picasso in these collective creations; they echo to modern costumes and photographs that attest the place of his work in the living répertoire of the Opéra national de Paris.

Pablo Picasso, Grand nu dansant, 1962 color linocut | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018
Pablo Picasso, Grand nu dansant, 1962 color linocut | BnF, Estampes et photographie © Succession Picasso 2018

Apart from the ballet world, Picasso represented numerous scenes of dance in relationship with specific themes. His Bohemian life led him to get in contact with the circus world as soon as the 1900s: in Toulouse-Lautrec‘s footsteps, he drew and painted ‘riding dancers’. In the late 1940s, Picasso was this time inspired by mythology. With a predilection for dancing bacchantes and fauns, he drew his inspiration from the classicism of Poussin or Ingres that he reinterpreted according to his own aesthetic principles. For example, this is the case with the Grand nu dansant, a coloured linocut made in 1962.

Pablo Picasso (after) Étude de décor pour le ballet Pulcinella [ca. 1920] Jacomet process | BnF / Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra © Succession Picasso 2018
Pablo Picasso (after) Étude de décor pour le ballet Pulcinella [ca. 1920] Jacomet process | BnF / Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra © Succession Picasso 2018
Eventually, from the 1960s, all these themes were revisited through the prism of an omnipresent eroticism, like the figurative dance of the print Salomé made in 1905; the work’s licentious potential was disclosed a few years later, when it was presented again in 1971

Picasso et la dance, exhibition setting | © Succession Picasso 2018
Picasso et la dance, exhibition setting | © Succession Picasso 2018

Sometimes even irrigating Picasso’s artistic practice, the dynamics of dancing movement so crossed the whole work of the master.

Picasso et la dance, exhibition setting | © Succession Picasso 2018
Picasso et la dance, exhibition setting | © Succession Picasso 2018

Picasso et la danse is organised by Bérenger Hainaut, curator at the Music Department of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and Inès Piovesan, head of the Publications Service, Opéra national de Paris.

Picasso et la dance, exhibition setting | © Succession Picasso 2018
Picasso et la dance, exhibition setting | © Succession Picasso 2018

The exhibition opened on June 19 and will be on until September 16, 2018, at the Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra, Palais Garnier, Paris.

It is part of Picasso-Méditerranée, an international cultural event which will is held from Spring 2017 through to autumn 2019. Over sixty cultural institutions have come together to conjure up a programme around the work « obstinément méditerranéenne » (Jean Leymarie) of Pablo Picasso. Initiated by the Musée national Picasso- Paris, this journey into the creation of the artist and across the places which inspired him, aims at strengthening ties between all the shores.