NORMAN — Pablo Picasso's “Woman in the Studio,” a 1956 painting on loan from the St. Louis Art Museum, is the centerpiece of a small exhibit of works by the celebrated Spanish painter that opens Friday at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm.
The woman pictured in this oil on canvas is probably Josephine Roque, Picasso's muse and second wife. During their 20-year marriage, Picasso painted more than 400 portraits of Roque. Her high cheekbones and large, dark eyes became familiar symbols in Picasso's late paintings.
The painting will be displayed alongside eight works from the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art's permanent collection, including several prints and a ceramic piece. The exhibit will remain on view until summer 2013.
“After we went through the negotiations of getting the painting, we decided to feature it as part of a larger installation instead of one isolated painting,” said exhibit curator Mark White. “Together with our works, the material seemed to fit an examination of Picasso's career in the mid 20th century.”
Picasso's early works were rooted in realism but after the turn of the 20th century, he began experimenting with new approaches to his art. Picasso was a pioneer of the cubist movement in art, a style in which familiar objects are fragmented and reassembled in an abstracted form.
In much the same way composers take melodic or rhythmic figures from their early works and incorporate them into new works, Picasso interpolated elements from his cubist period into works created late in his career. He was 75 years old when he painted “Woman in the Studio.”
“Picasso loved to quote himself but it's never a precise quotation,” White explained. “It's sort of a vague appropriation of something that feels and looks familiar. ‘Woman in the Studio' is almost pieced together out of different aesthetic approaches.
“The figure is clearly drawn from an earlier period but the right side of painting almost delves into pure abstraction. It's a painting that vacillates between representation and abstraction. You get a bit of the familiar and a bit of the new that come together in this painting.”
The Fred Jones Museum's Picassos include two etchings (“Seated Nude Crowned with Flowers” and “Dreams and Lies of Franco”) and a linocut (“Young Pigeon”) from the 1930s, as well as a ceramic pitcher that dates from the mid-1950s.
“The prints come from interesting moments in his career,” White said. “The seated nude shows a side of Picasso that most people would not expect to see in his work. It's a work that shows his interest in Greek classicism.
“The ‘Dreams and Lies of Franco' is an attack on Francisco Franco and the atrocities that happened during the Spanish Civil War. These works on paper deal with opposites within his career while the ceramic piece features a nude woman on a pitcher, a subject he returned to over and over again throughout his career.
“This exhibit is small but it contains a diversity of style and media. It will provide visitors not with a comprehensive sense of Picasso's career but a nice focus on who Picasso was and the diversity of his career.”
White will lead a brief gallery talk through the Picasso exhibit at 7 p.m. Friday. Scott Perkins, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville, will present a 6 p.m. lecture on “House of Clay: Bruce Goff's Frank Residence.” The talk will focus on the construction of John and Grace Lee Frank's 1955 Sapulpa residence.
For more information, call 325-3272 or go to www.ou.edu/fjjma.