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“Picasso in Italy: Art and Love”

By Stephen Eaker

Pablo Picasso has often been accused of indifference when it comes to Italian paintings, especially toward Raphael and Michelangelo, two artists he both appreciated and disavowed. On May 14, 1935, while in conversation with his dealer, Picasso said that he “would swap all Italian paintings for a Vermeer.” This statement greatly contradicts his artistic interests and annotations of 30 years earlier.

“Picasso in Italy: Art and Love”
Wed, Dec 10, 4:30 and 6:30pm
La Ostra Roja
A Casa Verde Annex
San Jorge 45
Colonia San Antonio (off Refugio Sur)
130 pesos
Reservations: 121 1026 or

In 1905, while working on preparatory drawings for his melancholic Rose Period masterpiece, “The Family of Saltimbanques,” Picasso spent a great deal of time in the Louvre and busied himself studying great Italian painting. In a little sketchbook from the period he noted that he wished to keep in mind the colors of Fra Angelico. Picasso not only remembered the Italian’s colors but also one of the quattrocento Renaissance master’s compositions, which obviously inspired “The Family of Saltimbanques.”

What prompted Picasso’s on-and-off-again attitude toward Italian art? Did Picasso honestly not care for it? Was Picasso’s massive ego so involved that he simply wanted to distract attention from the important influence of Italian art on his own work? Just by looking at his numerous Harlequins, one cannot help but associate them with the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell’arte.

In February of 1917, Picasso had made his first journey to Italy in order to design the stage curtains and costumes for the ballet Parade, to be performed by the Russian Ballet. Traveling to Rome with Jean Cocteau, Picasso was honestly dazzled by Italy. The trips to the many museums excited him, especially a visit to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, forever frozen in time by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The frescoes and other painterly decorations of Pompeii greatly inspired Picasso to further explore and rework these discoveries back in his studio in Paris. These new classical portrayals of reality are often called Picasso’s Neoclassical Period or Picasso’s Second Rose Period (1917-1924).

The return to a realistic and classical portrayal alongside with his cubist paintings would result in a new art form: a fusion of cubist fantasy with realistic renderings. This artistic synergy led Picasso to a new and even more exciting art form as he continued to evolve and mature.


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