Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier

Overview

Between spring and winter 1909, Picasso executed more than sixty portraits of his companion, Fernande Olivier. These works—produced in a variety of formats and mediums—exhibit a range of artistic approaches dedicated to a single subject that stands out in the history of portraiture. Even more significant, this series of works coincided with the invention of Cubism. Published to accompany a major exhibition originating at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, this richly illustrated volume illuminates Picasso's...

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Overview

Between spring and winter 1909, Picasso executed more than sixty portraits of his companion, Fernande Olivier. These works—produced in a variety of formats and mediums—exhibit a range of artistic approaches dedicated to a single subject that stands out in the history of portraiture. Even more significant, this series of works coincided with the invention of Cubism. Published to accompany a major exhibition originating at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, this richly illustrated volume illuminates Picasso's radical reformulation of human physiognomy.

Containing eighty-two color illustrations and sixty-eight duotones, the catalogue explores the Fernande portraits and related works as a single oeuvre culminating in the magnificent Head of a Woman (Fernande)—one of Picasso's rare pre-1912 excursions into sculpture. By so doing, it allows us to examine Picasso's process in an unprecedented fashion. What emerges is a new picture of the artist pursuing his subject with obsessive repetition and struggling to resolve artistic problems during a time of crisis in his work. Also included are previously unpublished studio photographs that offer further insight into the conceptual nature of the artist's process. The text narrates the internal development of the Fernande portrait series, situates it within the broader history of representation, and considers the powerful impact of Cézanne on Picasso's work during this period.

Seizing a single extended moment in the early history of Cubism, this catalogue reveals Cubism's great achievement—its startling invention, its remarkable expressive power, and its profound formal and psychological implications for modern art.

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE:

National Gallery of Art, Washington

October 1, 2003 - January 18, 2004

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Dallas

February 15 - May 9, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
In the 30 years since his death, the epic career of Pablo Picasso has sustained endless parsing and subdivision, yielding exhibitions of ever sharper focus. But few of these shows equal the spectacular close-up provided by Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier at the National Gallery of Art. . . . [A] revelatory, singularly moving show.
— Roberta Smith
Washington Post
In this . . . exhibition . . . we get to see one subject, explored in depth by one astounding artist, at one impossibly important moment in the history of art. It gives us the chance to really concentrate on a few works that don't stop posing questions and striking sparks off each other. . . . Picasso is working without the rules—and without a net—and every single move has to be figured out from scratch, tested just by launching into it. . . . I cannot think of any other moment in the history of art where an artist has this much freedom, and has to decide all for himself what he should do with it. . . . He's not working toward cubism, or any other -ism for that matter. He's just working. . . . Picasso is not the alchemist-magician that became his favorite pose; he's more like an eager young genius working long hours in the lab.
— Blake Gopnik
Choice
Picasso is intellectually challenging and rewarding, argued convincingly with the aid of 150 reproductions. . . . A conviction that drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography were deliberately and innovatively interwoven in Picasso's processes of creation unifies and enlivens this volume throughout.
The ArtBook
The book is so well and so fully illustrated that one could imagine the exhibition had come to one's desk. . . . The three essays accompanying the reproductions add substantially to the knowledge and considerations most of us could bring to its sharply focused theme. Additional illustrations in the essays ensure that the book becomes, in this respect, the exhibition augmented.
— Norbert Lynton
The Art Book
The book is so well and so fully illustrated that one could imagine the exhibition had come to one's desk. . . . The three essays accompanying the reproductions add substantially to the knowledge and considerations most of us could bring to its sharply focused theme. Additional illustrations in the essays ensure that the book becomes, in this respect, the exhibition augmented.
— Norbert Lynton
New York Times - Roberta Smith
In the 30 years since his death, the epic career of Pablo Picasso has sustained endless parsing and subdivision, yielding exhibitions of ever sharper focus. But few of these shows equal the spectacular close-up provided by Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier at the National Gallery of Art. . . . [A] revelatory, singularly moving show.
Washington Post - Blake Gopnik
In this . . . exhibition . . . we get to see one subject, explored in depth by one astounding artist, at one impossibly important moment in the history of art. It gives us the chance to really concentrate on a few works that don't stop posing questions and striking sparks off each other. . . . Picasso is working without the rules—and without a net—and every single move has to be figured out from scratch, tested just by launching into it. . . . I cannot think of any other moment in the history of art where an artist has this much freedom, and has to decide all for himself what he should do with it. . . . He's not working toward cubism, or any other -ism for that matter. He's just working. . . . Picasso is not the alchemist-magician that became his favorite pose; he's more like an eager young genius working long hours in the lab.
The ArtBook - Norbert Lynton
The book is so well and so fully illustrated that one could imagine the exhibition had come to one's desk. . . . The three essays accompanying the reproductions add substantially to the knowledge and considerations most of us could bring to its sharply focused theme. Additional illustrations in the essays ensure that the book becomes, in this respect, the exhibition augmented.
From the Publisher
"In the 30 years since his death, the epic career of Pablo Picasso has sustained endless parsing and subdivision, yielding exhibitions of ever sharper focus. But few of these shows equal the spectacular close-up provided by Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier at the National Gallery of Art. . . . [A] revelatory, singularly moving show."—Roberta Smith, New York Times

"In this . . . exhibition . . . we get to see one subject, explored in depth by one astounding artist, at one impossibly important moment in the history of art. It gives us the chance to really concentrate on a few works that don't stop posing questions and striking sparks off each other. . . . Picasso is working without the rules—and without a net—and every single move has to be figured out from scratch, tested just by launching into it. . . . I cannot think of any other moment in the history of art where an artist has this much freedom, and has to decide all for himself what he should do with it. . . . He's not working toward cubism, or any other -ism for that matter. He's just working. . . . Picasso is not the alchemist-magician that became his favorite pose; he's more like an eager young genius working long hours in the lab."—Blake Gopnik, Washington Post

"Picasso is intellectually challenging and rewarding, argued convincingly with the aid of 150 reproductions. . . . A conviction that drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography were deliberately and innovatively interwoven in Picasso's processes of creation unifies and enlivens this volume throughout."—Choice

"The book is so well and so fully illustrated that one could imagine the exhibition had come to one's desk. . . . The three essays accompanying the reproductions add substantially to the knowledge and considerations most of us could bring to its sharply focused theme. Additional illustrations in the essays ensure that the book becomes, in this respect, the exhibition augmented."—Norbert Lynton, The ArtBook

"The book is so well and so fully illustrated that one could imagine the exhibition had come to one's desk. . . . The three essays accompanying the reproductions add substantially to the knowledge and considerations most of us could bring to its sharply focused theme. Additional illustrations in the essays ensure that the book becomes, in this respect, the exhibition augmented."—Norbert Lynton, The Art Book

New York Times
In the 30 years since his death, the epic career of Pablo Picasso has sustained endless parsing and subdivision, yielding exhibitions of ever sharper focus. But few of these shows equal the spectacular close-up provided by Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier at the National Gallery of Art. . . . [A] revelatory, singularly moving show.
— Roberta Smith
Choice
Picasso is intellectually challenging and rewarding, argued convincingly with the aid of 150 reproductions. . . . A conviction that drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography were deliberately and innovatively interwoven in Picasso's processes of creation unifies and enlivens this volume throughout.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691117416
  • Publisher: National Gallery of Art
  • Publication date: 9/8/2003
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 8.78 (w) x 10.78 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Table of Contents

Director's Forward xii
Lender's to the Exhibition xiii
Preface xv
Fleeting and Fixed: Picasso's Fernandes 1
Catalogue 51
La Peau de Chargrin 127
Process and Techniques in Picasso's Head of a Woman (Fernande) 165
Chronology 193
Photographic Credits 197

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