The first exhibition to explore Pablo Picassos lifelong connections with Britain is the highlight of this years Festival programme at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
. Picasso & Modern British Art brings together 150 works from major public and private collections around the world, including some 60 outstanding paintings, drawings and prints by Picasso. This stunning exhibition, which has been organised in partnership with Tate Britain, where it was shown to great acclaim this spring, traces the evolution of the artists critical reputation in Britain, and demonstrates his profound influence on British artists, through the example of major figures such as Francis Bacon and Henry Moore.
Picasso instigated many of the most significant developments of twentieth-century art and masterpieces from every period of his career features in the exhibition, including his landmark painting, The Three Dancers 1925 (Tate), which the artist considered one of his two greatest works. Also on show is Head of a Man 1912 (Musée dArt 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 Picassos 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 Picassos late career, Woman Dressing her Hair 1940 (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
The exhibition explores Picassos rise in Britain as a figure of both controversy and celebrity, tracing the ways in which his work was exhibited and collected here during his lifetime, and revealing the extent to which the British engagement with his art was much deeper and more varied than generally has been appreciated.
The work of Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Moore, Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney - seven British artists for whom Picasso proved an important stimulus - illustrate the artists enormous impact on twentieth-century modernism in this country, as well as the variety and vitality of British artists responses to his work over a period of more than seventy years. Works by each artist, carefully chosen to illustrate a specific feature of their dialogue with Picasso, are shown. In Edinburgh, the exhibition includes an additional element that reveals Picassos influence on Scottish artists Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde.
The exhibition also considers the significance of British collector Roland Penrose, who became intimately associated with the artist and his reputation. Penrose organised the phenomenally successful survey of Picassos 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 is on show in Edinburgh.
Other fascinating aspects of Picassos relationship to Britain are considered in depth, including 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 also assesses the significance of Picassos 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 considers the artists 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.