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Picasso and the Process of Creation : The Painter and His Model

26 April – 11 June 2022

The Helly Nahmad Gallery is pleased to announce the forthcoming exhibition “Picasso & the Process of Creation: The Painter and His Model” to open in New York from 26 April through 11 June 2022. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the international art historian Dr. Dieter Buchhart and was designed by studioMDA New York. 

The last decade of Picasso’s life is marked by a considerable tour de force when he again took up the theme of El Pintor y la Modelo with great enthusiasm and created one of his most prolific series, generating over 150 paintings. Picasso was already an octogenarian, but his creative process continued its compulsive development, taking the form of intensive almost obsessive production, with the painter completing two canvases or more a day.

Our exhibition will be groundbreaking in analyzing Picasso’s later years where his repeated focus on the artist and his model became a means of intense introspection, driven by his refusal of aging as he faced the agonizing thought of his inevitable mortality. Often focusing on the manifestation of the model taking place on the artist's canvas, the theme allowed Picasso to explore the secrets of the creative process. Under an art historical climate with a strong tendency towards the conceptual, Picasso's painter and model series stands as a manifesto for the art of painting and the process of creation itself.

The works from Picasso's painter and model series take a variety of forms, yet they follow a similar outline. The painter is usually seated on the left holding a color palette and brush in his hand. The canvas he is working on is set up in front of him and divides the picture plane into two distinct areas. To the right, a nude model is either seated or reclined, facing the artist. Additionally, Picasso used different details to refine the atelier space further. Among them is a recurring portrait head. It is usually placed on a shelf behind the model and stands in profile as can be observed on several paintings from our collection. Sometimes the painter is shown alone with the canvas but without the model, while at times the scene is set in a studio, or else out of doors. Picasso depicts the artist as both creator and voyeur, in the act of painting and observing a sleeping nude model. We are here watching a work in progress, rather than the finished result, and are observing the creative process.

Through the painter and model series, Picasso deals with themes that increasingly concern him at the end of his life. The exhibition will reveal how Picasso, during his last and most intense artistic struggle, embraced a theme that enabled him to illustrate the mechanics of creation through the relationship between the three principal participants, the artist, the model and the canvas.

Picasso & the Process of Creation: The Painter and His Model will be made possible through the generous loans from several American and European collections, and will be accompanied by a publication with texts by Dr. Dieter Buchhart as well as renowned Picasso scholar, Michael Fitzgerald.