Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Behind-the-scenes Tour with the Director

Hello. I’m Tom Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan
Museum of Art and I’m here with Gary Tinterow,
curator of the exhibition Picasso in The
Metropolitan Museum. Gary, this is a landmark show
of about 300 works by Picasso drawn from our own collections. You’ve chosen to hang them
chronologically to provide a full survey
of his life and his work. And we start off with the year
he arrives in Paris, 1901. And we have paintings that,
in fact, if one didn’t know, one might almost attribute them
to Toulouse-Lautrec. TINTEROW: Yeah. CAMPBELL: This was the milieu
into which he came. Absolutely. Picasso said, “Great artists
don’t borrow; they steal.” And Picasso was like a magpie
and wherever he went, he had incredible instinct
for knowing what was hot at that moment
and what style in which to work. And when he arrived in Paris at
the height of the Art Nouveau poster-making period with Jules
Cheret and Toulouse-Lautrec, the visual landscape of Paris
were all those great posters and the nightlife of Montmartre was this compelling
subject matter. CAMPBELL: And so here,
the signature image of the first gallery,
the harlequin, do we see early Picasso emerging
from this cutting and pasting? Absolutely.
I mean, cutting and pasting is an interesting analogy because that’s just
what he was doing. And what’s so fascinating
about this, because of our work on other
exhibitions and projects, we’re able to know quite
precisely what Picasso saw before he made this picture. So when you look
at the floral background, it might remind you of our
“La Berceuse” by Van Gogh in the Annenberg Collection
hanging here at The Met. CAMPBELL:
That’s right. Yup. TINTEROW: And, indeed,
we were able to determine that that painting was in
Vollard’s gallery in June 1901, when Picasso had
his own exhibition in Vollard’s gallery
in June 1901. The blue and green
color harmony reminds one of Gauguin’s late work,
his Tahitian paintings, that Vollard had recently
exhibited in Paris and certainly had some
in his storeroom. So, he knew how to make
a compelling image, I mean, what we might call
an iconic image because of its frontality,
its placement. That’s something that
he learned early on and repeats constantly
through his career. He’s only 19 years old
when he paints this and it’s such
an extraordinary masterpiece. CAMPBELL:
Now, there’s a gaiety, there’s a vibrancy of coloration
in the paintings in this gallery which we see falling away as we
go through into the next gallery where the coloration
becomes predominantly blue. TINTEROW: Yeah, his mood shifts
dramatically at the end of 1901. He’s in Paris and the death of
his friend, Carlos Casagemas, by suicide begins
to weigh heavily on him. He began to paint outcasts,
the marginalized. He himself seemed to develop
a morbid fear of blindness, which was the typical result
of promiscuity in those days, syphilis. He frequented an asylum
for women near Montmartre called Saint-Lazare, which was
a public hospital for women with venereal disease. And there he found
a number of his subjects for his Blue Period pictures. Including this blind man? TINTEROW: Yeah. This is more
sacred than profane ’cause as you can recognize,
it’s the Eucharist: bread and wine, and this
poor man, but he’s blind. To me, it’s a fantastic painting
because of its secular scene, which is a marginal man,
an outcast– what we would call
a homeless person today– infused with the spectral light
of El Greco, giving us a timeless scene
about Christian symbolism. CAMPBELL: Now, I know you’ve
done a lot of research with infrared and X-rays. Do we know
in the painting process, was this an image
that Picasso arrived at early or was this kind of a
labored image that, you know, there was much experimentation?
– Yeah. Dramatic discovery here was
an entire painting underneath, which is a crouching nude
from the Blue Period, which is visible in
a famous painting by Picasso called “La Vie”
in the Cleveland Museum of Art. And it shows a couple,
sort of Adam and Eve-like, in Picasso’s studio
with two canvases visible, one on an easel,
one leaning against the easel. The one leaning against his
easel is the crouching nude, which is a painting that
scholars have been looking for for years and now we know where
it is. CAMPBELL:
Now we know where it is. – It’s underneath this picture.
– Under this one. (chuckles) TINTEROW: Precisely. And because he was so poor,
and canvas was a luxury, it was more convenient for him
to paint over something that wasn’t going
to be sold anyway. CAMPBELL:
Now, how long does this blue, this melancholy period last for? TINTEROW: I would say it began
in Paris at the end of 1901 and it continued straight
through to his return to Paris from Barcelona in spring 1904. It was spring, it was Paris,
things lightened up. He found a new subject,
which was the itinerant acrobats whom he paints
in the Rose Period and which we have
a very fine collection of. CAMPBELL: In changing his
palette in this Rose Period, is he reflecting
contemporary thought about the symbolism of colors or is it just a more
instinctive aesthetic decision? TINTEROW:
I think it’s all those things. But it was a conscious
aesthetic choice as well. I mean, the two were
operating together. But in coming
into the Pink Period and choosing this harmony
of pink and blue, let’s say with “The Actor,” he’s developing
his own color scheme that is unlike
those of anyone else. CAMPBELL: And we’re getting
an ever more marked distortion with the figures, a freedom
to mix figures, shapes to an emotional
and evocative purpose. Yeah. I think, you know,
the key thing if we’re looking
for stylistic influences is that he leaves El Greco,
although in the attenuation here we could say there’s still
a hint of El Greco left in this figure and we think
of pictures by El Greco where the hands are
so nervous and electric. So he has that here. But he essentially leaves
El Greco behind for Ingres when he goes from the
Blue Period to the Rose Period. And all three of these pictures are informed
by the example of Ingres. So you know, of course, the
great “Oedipus and the Sphinx” at the Louvre. And so that’s where the gesture, the final gesture
that he arrives at is taken straight
from that picture. There, you’ll recognize Bronzino’s
“Portrait of a Young Man,” with a hand on hip, which was
then reworked by Ingres, in “the Comte de Pastoret,” the portrait now at
the Art Institute of Chicago, which he then quotes
more fully here, and he thought
it was a swagger pose, as it is, and he used it in these two
depictions of circus performers. So we can find resonances
within our own collections here that speak to the development
of Picasso’s oeuvre. TINTEROW: Absolutely. CAMPBELL: Now, to our right, we’ve got the famous portrait
of Gertrude Stein. Would you call that
a Rose Period painting? TINTEROW: Well, it comes right
at the end of the Rose Period, and that’s what’s
so interesting. But he’s looking for
non-Classical sources. He’s also looking at sculpture. CAMPBELL: The hands could
be straight out of Ingres. – Precisely.
– The upper torso is going an entirely new direction.
– Yeah, and that’s what we see in the next room.
– Yeah. What’s going on here? How did he get here? TINTEROW:
There are a number of things. He is introduced to African art
by Henri Matisse, who brought a Congolese statue over to Gertrude Stein’s
apartment, and they were marveling
at the carving. He then went to the ethnographic
museum, looked at Oceanic art, and he made an amalgam
of all these– what used to be called
“primitive”– traditions of art making, and conceived a very
sculptural approach. There’s something very strong
and animalistic about them. This is what he’s gaining
from primitive art. CAMPBELL: We’ve got two
very identical images here. – What’s happening here?
– That’s just spectacular, because, you know, no curator would be allowed
to buy two works that are so close,
you would just have to choose: “Do you want this one
or do you want that one?” But because so many of the works
were given to the museum, we have the great luxury
of seeing these two works, which are probably done on the
same day, if not the day after. This one, I think done first,
in pencil, with the blue washes, and here with much stronger
application of washes… – More heavily accented.
– Precisely. And where he begins, you know, he looks at the figure here, he makes these wonderful
arc-like shapes, and then he begins
to shade and pencil where he wants
to create the relief. And here, knowing just
where that’s going to happen, it comes out
with greater sureness. CAMPBELL: There’s a drawing
over here in the corner you especially cherish. TINTEROW:
“Standing Female Nude,” 1910, I think it’s the greatest
Cubist drawing there is. What I love about the drawing
is this marvelous scaffold that is organic and intuitive. It’s not a scaffold
that an architect or an engineer would make, but we can sense the human body
very strongly. Everything has been broken up
into these formal elements: cubes, planes, figures. It’s an exaggeration
and extension of all sorts of things,
but predominantly, it’s Cezanne right now. He’s looking
at late paintings by Cezanne. The way the brush strokes
are applied, and the way they act like
mosaics to, at a distance, assemble a picture. It also is in very good
condition. CAMPBELL: Mm-hmm.
How long does this go on? TINTEROW: Picasso ends his first
big flush of Cubism with the close of the war, when he’s invited by Jean
Cocteau and Sergei Diaghilev to work on the Ballets Russes. He goes to Rome,
he works on a ballet, he meets a dancer, a Russian
dancer named Olga Khokhlova, he marries, and his life changes
dramatically at that point. And I would say
his art does, too, and that’s what we can see
in the next room. CAMPBELL:
Changes in what respect? TINTEROW:
He becomes neoclassical again. Having been to Italy,
having gone to Herculaneum and to Pompeii, seeing those great frescoes completely changes
his perception. He makes marvelous heads
like this that are a direct reflection
of his Italian experience. But these women are all in one
way or another his wife Olga. These two pastels both come
from Scofield Thayer, who was a remarkable
American collector, very important
in literary history, the first to publish T.S. Eliot
and Ezra Pound in America. He had a magazine
called “The Dial,” which was tremendously
influential. And he wanted to buy works
of art that he could reproduce in his magazine. CAMPBELL: Now, in this gallery,
we’re predominantly looking at paintings and drawings, but I know in the next gallery,
you have many linoleum cuts. It was clearly a medium
he loved working in. He was really inventive.
– He did. And he invented new processes. So when you look, for example,
at this suite here, of transformation
of the satyrs and the bulls, with the starry sky, this is
a reductive line or cut– which is to say
he’s using the same block, and he continues to scoop away
more– precisely– in order to make the different
color patches, because for a work like here,
“The Woman after Cranach,” he was very unhappy with
the problems of registration, and you can see even
the red block for her dress doesn’t line up where it should. And he found that
very disturbing. And so, with his printer, he developed
this reductive technique, and we see an explosion
in his art. And was he making linoleum cuts
at the same time that he was painting oils? Or does he kind of have periods working in the different medium? Certainly, there are moments
when he favors one or the other, but I think he loved
the transformation. When he was working
on a painting, he would often
revise the pictures, and that’s what we’ve seen
through infrared and X-ray. But he would lose
the previous states. And what he loved
with printmaking is that he could hold onto
the previous states, he could pull a print,
and then go back to the plate or to the block
and continue to revise it. And he loved seeing
the progressive stages of metamorphosis, because
for Picasso, it was all about transformation,
metamorphosis, creativity. CAMPBELL: Many of our paintings
are on display most of the time. But this is the part of the show
that is really unusual. He’s painting as well,
and drawing never stops, making sculpture, but I think his printmaking,
more than any other medium, show his creativity
and expression best. The exhibition is on
through August the 1st, but of course,
even after it closes, many of our Picasso paintings will be on display
in our permanent galleries. I hope you have
the opportunity to visit. Thank you.

61 thoughts on “Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Behind-the-scenes Tour with the Director

  1. This show and the commentary of Gary Tinterow unfortunately tells us nothing important about these works of Picasso. The commentary of this video is particularly superficial and trival dealing as it does with information which is peripheral to the meaning of the works themselves. These art historians really don't understand painting at all. What a waste.

  2. amazing thing I ever seem all diferents culture toguether I so happy . I was there last week it just great !!!!!!!!
    thank you

  3. @Ozzrya91 Most art historians like most musicologists are people who really wanted to be artists but didn't have the talent/ courage. They spend their lives surrounded by art but are really outside of it. They see the works as documents or technical processes or as wealth/possessions. It really is a shame. Art has within itself many of the hidden and secret meanings of life and of ourselves (our minds). But really only artists can see this and they talk through art (another world completely).

  4. @bigbono12
    I completely agree, bigbono, try to see Francis Bacon or David Hockney talking about art an you'll see what difference!

  5. @Garramedia Thank you. You are one of the few who seems to understand. We are living in a cultural wasteland and those who are the custodians of our heritage are as blind and unknowledeable as those they shoud be teaching. When and after the boom falls (WW3) there will be a great deal of teaching to do among other things (!).

  6. Amazing video. Please watch king David by michangelo. If u like it please share it. U never saw anything like it. Nothing more amazing In the history of art.u need to watch it 2 times

  7. Its amazing Metropolitan Museum of Arts, I really like it. I want to go there. I have also found one more Art Museum video here is also amazing videos available want to share with you all… http://youtu.be/M1aQWEBOak8

  8. All these Art Emperors live based on the death Artist’s Legacies with no doubt. While the Artist is alive, even they don't accept his/her call in any time. Please don’t give me wrong. you can test them yourselves. Mail them for a review or exhibition of your artworks, you will find your applications in a trashcan quite soon. They live in nice mansions or a House of Art with proudly call Art Galleries/Museums and the artists are suffering of poverty and struggling to pay the bills to live. Well. That kind of artist will be very lucky if he/she sells some paintings to those Emperors/Art Collectors, and they call him/her back in 5 to ten years if he/she is still alive or death. The good news will be if he/she is death to make some money but tons of money. They take your paintings and make their own stories about them and make them as an iconic painting and that is the time that their lottery matches for a jackpot. Basically, we all work for them for free. When they call their selves the Emperors, another meaning of that is the Slavery Masters. We create works of art until we are alive with no respect or appreciation and the end, they take advantage of them mercilessly. I am not venge it to discuss deeply but reality is the word of Lord. In the whole history of art, Mark Rothko was realized the exact meaning of Art Emperors which I am talking about.

  9. The  www.FindArtPrice.com database includes over 426,010 catalogues with images on line, 45 million auction results, with privacy, saftety and indices covering 482,021 international artists. Also included are upcoming sales from 4,900 auction houses, signatures and biographies of artists and artwork estimates.

  10. God blessed Picasso with the best, unrivaled, artistic Gift ever. Most talented painter in history. Michelangelo comes in at second. Just a pity that both missed God who blessed them with these God given gifts. Same with Freddy Mercury.

  11. Hola cordial saludo.no conozco algún crítico de arte qué hablé sobre la maestri Della tavolozza .sir Thomas Lawrence .obra Geovanny lambton 1769a1830. Qué está en manos de coleccionista privado de Colombia .hay qué tener ética moral y respeto hacia está obra perteneciente a los grandes genios de la pintura universal [email protected]

  12. I liked how they brought up & showed his influences, what he 'stole'. A lovely little tour & AMAZING work, thank you.

  13. Picasso was a master of imaginary he copied and borrowed or if you want to be critical stole ideas and techniques which he made his own in a masterful way he was the Willie Nelson of Modern art! just look at any Picasso work from the most primitive brutalist style to his neo classical the colors shapes curves every single stroke this man made was perfectly in harmony with the image and feeling he wanted to convey every one of his works is like a moment and his feelings frozen in time. I remember when I was a kid I hated modern art and Picasso I just did not understand it used to think any 5 year old could paint that! its all so deceivingly simple yet it would take many lifetimes just to master only of his periods..on the other hand Bacon, Rothko .and Pollock are still a challenge to my understanding and appreciation ..


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  16. I Don't exzibit anymore to make others Rich now I'm not Really Stupid I now longer exzibit for free lowders that Hate me and other Artist that put there all in there work to help a community that Dose not care about Artist at all I have Cubist Abstract Art about Violence in America Do You see Art about the Real Violence in America no Good injoy all the Violence I believe that's what You Want how Dose it Feel You give nothing You see Nothing but Darkness were there is no Light at all Thanks for Nothing

  17. In the winter of 1980 I went on a tour of the Metropolitan museum and one of the artists on display was a recluse who made detailed Shadow boxes of art of Everyday life in America. Do you have the records of the artists who were on display back then ?

  18. Thank you for the in-depth analysis & insights into Picasso's works. Interesting to learn about the artistic influences & inspirations help me understand his evolving styles. I thoroughly enjoyed & learned a lot. Picasso knows how to commercialize his art.

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