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Picasso and Munch: Genius on Paper (Exhibition Extended)
LewAllen Galleries marks the expansion of its Modernist program with an exhibition of important and seldom seen works on paper by Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch, which opened on December 30, 2016. This exhibition has been extended and will now be up through March 5, 2017.
Not often in the art world is there an opportunity to experience side-by-side foundational imagery of two of the most pivotal figures of 20th century art. This opportunity is presented in Genius on Paper, a carefully curated exhibition of rare and iconic examples of the artists’ lithographs, linocuts, woodblock prints, aquatints and drypoints among other media, illustrating the remarkable breadth of each artist’s printmaking career. Of exceptional importance, all the works in this exhibition are from a prominent collection, in exceptional condition and enjoy pristine provenance.
Edvard Münch (1863-1944) was a renowned Symbolist and Modernist painter and printmaker whose intensely evocative imagery deconstructed the figural into mysterious, haunting glimpses of human psychology. His style built on the main tenets of late 19th-century Symbolism and greatly influenced German Expressionism in the early 20th century. Within a single painting, etching or series of drawings Munch was able to capture the array of recurring themes common to people during the course of their lives. He wrote that he strongly believed that it was necessary for his art to depict “living people who breathe and feel, suffer and love.”
Perhaps the most famous example of this is “The Scream,” created in 1895, and to this day is one of the most recognizable images in art history. As works included in the LewAllen exhibition attest, the artist’s intaglio prints, etchings, lithographs and drypoints often recall a similar sense of the unsettling atmosphere and ennui of “The Scream.”
Munch’s graphic works distill the expressive power of his Symbolist allegories in a manner as equally compelling as that of his paintings with an even rawer, more powerful sensibility. In 1894, Munch created the earliest of the works on view, “The Girl at the Window”, a haunting image of a spectral child peering tentatively through curtains of a window. The latest work in the show is from 1916, entitled “Inheritance,” an arresting portrait of a mother with a dying child – evocative, some writers have noted, of the Pietà image of Mary cradling the dead body of Christ–and the same subject of an important, controversial painting by Munch of the same title.
Roland Penrose, the biographer of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), aptly notes: “The name which predominates in the development of art during this century, and to which the most revolutionary changes are inevitably ascribed, is that of Pablo Picasso.” His practice as a printmaker of etchings, aquatints, and lithographs has fielded astonishing works which powerfully encapsulate and distill the revolutionary experimentations with line, volume, and space for which he is known.
The LewAllen exhibition is quite unusual in serving as a kind of survey of Picasso’s printmaking with the earliest work in the show having been made by the artist in 1908 and representing one of the first examples of his analytical Cubism. The exhibition includes a wide range of other works created by Picasso during each decade, from the 1920s through the 1960s.
Among the works on paper included in the LewAllen show are extraordinary and rare examples of many of Picasso’s most important stylistic innovations. These include his use of Cubism, classical imagery and allegorical references in amplifying the emotional impact of modern art, exemplifying much that was foundational to the monumental, iconic legacy for which Picasso has been immortalized. Other works on view illustrate Picasso’s visionary use of line and reduction of form, as well as his use of fantasy and distorted figuration.
Both Picasso and Munch are distinguished by the particular fervor and talent with which they approached printmaking. They both believed that the genre offered unique and dynamic possibilities for experimentation and diverse emotional articulations. Both brought superb technical dexterity and remarkably imaginative approaches to material and image. Each delighted in the expressive effects they could coax from the diverse techniques and materials of this art form. The LewAllen exhibition illustrates the variety of those techniques and approaches to line, textures, papers, inks and composition that allowed each artist to achieve extraordinary and continual invention so fundamental to the creative genius and oeuvre of each.