Pablo Picasso and the ballerina Olga Khokhlova met in 1917, when the painter was in Italy to present the ballet Parade with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. A year later, Khokhlova became the artist’s first wife and while the relationship lasted, until their separation in 1935, she was the artist’s favourite model in what became known as Picasso’s neoclassical period.
CaixaForum Madrid is pleased to present Olga Picasso, an exhibition that examines the artistic, living and emotional adventure represented by this period in Picasso’s career. The show, which features 335 works, including paintings, drawings, graphic works, sculptures, photographs, films, documents and objects, invites visitors to rediscover the “Olga period” through such masterpieces as Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, Olga in Pensive Mood, Crucifixion, and portraits of the couple’s son Paulo as Harlequin and Pierrot.
Besides this purely artistic journey, the exhibition also narrates the life of the couple, highlighting hitherto little-known aspects, such as Olga’s dramatic family history. The show is the result of intense research into the letters and photographs found in Olga’s travel trunk and archives. It was organised by the Musée national Picasso-Paris and the Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso Fundación para el Arte, in cooperation with ”la Caixa”, the Pushkin Museum of Moscow and the Museo Picasso Málaga.
Olga Picasso. Place: CaixaForum Madrid (Paseo del Prado, 36). Dates: From 19 June to 22 September 2019.
Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, which took as its reference a photograph that is also on display in this room, is one of the first portraits that Picasso painted of the young woman. He painted it in Montrouge, where the couple had just set up home together. While the photograph juxtaposes the delicate arabesque of the pose with the disorder of the works hung on the wall of the studio, the painting, with its neutral background, focuses its attention on the attributes of the model. She is shown sitting in an armchair, whose embroidery is depicted with great delicacy, in the style of decorative wallpaper. Her figure stands out with enormous clarity against the bare background. The canvas expresses both the painter’s attention and admiration when faced with this seductive female presence.
Image: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, spring 1918. Musée national Picasso-Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais / Mathieu Rabeau. © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP: Madrid, 2019.