City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Picasso & Modern British Art Exhibition Comes To Edinburgh


By edg - Posted on 01 August 2012

Picasso's Three Dancers

Pablo Picasso was a colossus bestriding the 20th century art world, but British collectors were slow to recognise his importance. The Tate didn't  purchase a Cubist Picasso until 1949, decades after the artist's pioneering work in Cubism.

The story of Picasso’s rise in Britain as a figure of both controversy and celebrity is the focus of Picasso & Modern British Art, which after showing at Tate Britain, comes to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh this week (4 August to 4 November).

The exhibition, part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, looks at how Picasso's work was exhibited and collected here during his lifetime revealing, according to the National Galleries, "the extent to which the British engagement with his art was much deeper and more varied than generally has been appreciated."

It also traces Picasso's influence on British artists, with work by Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Moore, Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney - seven British artists for whom Picasso proved an important stimulus. "The comparison is frequently cruel," notes Laura Cumming in her review for The Guardian.

Picasso & Modern British Art brings together some 150 works from major public and private collections around the world, including some 60 paintings, drawings and prints from Picasso's varied career.

Among the works are The Three Dancers 1925 (Tate), pictured above, which the artist considered one of his two greatest pieces.

Also on show will be Head of a Man 1912 (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), one of several works that introduced Cubism to Britain when they were included in an exhibition organised by the critic Roger Fry in 1912.

Other highlights include Picasso’s Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle 1914, (National Gallery, London, on loan to Tate); a playful late-Cubist work, Guitar, Compote Dish and Grape, 1924 (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam); and a powerful example from Picasso’s late career, Woman Dressing her Hair 1940 (Museum of Modern Art, New York).

In Edinburgh, the exhibition includes an additional element that reveals Picasso’s influence on Scottish artists Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde.

The Penrose connection

The exhibition also considers the significance of British collector Roland Penrose, who became intimately associated with the artist and his reputation. Penrose organised the landmark survey of Picasso’s career at the Tate in 1960, and was instrumental in persuading the artist to sell The Three Dancers to the Tate in 1965. His outstanding collection included the iconic Weeping Woman, 1937 (Tate) as well as Guitar, Gas-Jet and Bottle, and Tête, both 1913, which are now in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

In 1994 the Gallery also acquired the extensive Penrose archive, and a range of material from this extraordinarily rich resource will be on show in Edinburgh.

Other aspects of Picasso’s relationship to Britain inclde a section devoted to costume and scenery designs for a production of The Three-Cornered Hat by the Ballet Russes, which Picasso created during a ten-week stay in London in 1919.

The show will also assess the significance of Picasso’s political status in Britain, from the 1938-9 tour of Guernica, his celebrated response to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, to his appearance at the 1950 Peace Congress in Sheffield.

The final section will consider the artist’s post-war reputation, from the widespread hostility provoked by an exhibition of paintings by Picasso and Matisse at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1945-6, to the triumphant Tate retrospective fifteen years later.

Scottish National Galleries 2012 programme