Fragile Picasso On Display At Kemper This Week Only

Fragile Picasso On Display At Kemper This Week Only

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University brought out "one of the most important objects" in its collection yesterday and it will be on display only until this Monday, March 23. 

The piece (pictured above) is "Bottle of Suze" by Picasso, from 1912. 

According to Karen Butler, assistant curator at the museum, the work is a collage made from newsprint, wallpaper and construction paper, so it is extremely sensitive to light, which causes the paper to fade and detiorate. Normally it's kept in a dark, climate controlled room. 

The last time it was available for public viewing was in 2006. Butler said a large, intro to modern art class at the University is studying cubism and the professor asked the museum to display the work rather than cram his students into a study room.

"It's also an opportunity for the general public to come see this work that, for safety's sake, for curatorial reasons, needs to be in storage," Butler said. "I can't really say when we'll bring out again. It's a balance between preserving art for the future and making it available for students and visitors in the present."

Butler said that Picasso, along with his cubist contemporaries Juan Gris and Georges Braque, were among the first artists to ever create collages and this is one of the earliest examples of Picasso's work with the form.

The museum is free and open to the public. Read the curator's notes for the piece after the jump.

Pablo Picasso's La Bouteille de Suze is a key image of the late Synthetic Cubism developed by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Picasso, in which the artists synthesized separate elements from real life in their pictures to suggest objects and environments. In La Bouteille de Suze, Picasso used cut fragments of newsprint, wallpaper, and construction paper, as well as gouache and charcoal, to suggest a liquor bottle with a label and, on the left, a glass and an ashtray with cigarette and smoke. These abstract, fragmented elements all appear to rest on a blue table in front of a wall with diamond-patterned wallpaper and newsprint. Serving as a formal element, the newsprint also suggests the popular Parisian café activity of reading the paper while smoking and drinking. The texts add a political and social dimension to the image: they juxtapose newspaper articles referring to horrific events from the First Balkan war with stories of Parisian frivolity. Along with the texts, the distorted, fragmented forms in this Cubist image allude to such conditions of modernity as the lack of coherent perspectives or meanings in a constantly changing world. Picasso's work can thus be seen as simultaneously warning against the absurdity of modern life while also delighting in life's simple pleasures.

Paired with the exhibit will be collages and other works from Braque. Butler will be giving an "informal talk" on Braque's work Wednesday evening as part of the museum's Spotlight Series. More info here.
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