Picasso in Fontainebleau

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Picasso in Fontainebleau
From July to September in 1921, Picasso rented a villa for himself, his Russian ballerina wife Olga Khokhlova, and their five-month-old son Paul Joseph (“Paolo”) in the charming village of Fontainebleau, about 35 miles from Paris, best known for its glorious, eclectic château, dating back to the 12th century. In the adjacent garage, fitted out as a studio, Picasso created four gigantic masterpieces: Three Musicians (two versions painted simultaneously) and Three Women at the Spring (two versions, one painting and one red-chalk drawing). These 6-foot works towered over 5 foot-4 inch Picasso in this narrow space, generating an enigmatic puzzle for future Picasso scholars: What can we glean from Picasso’s eclecticism during this summer in Fontainebleau?  Pablo Picasso, Three Musicians, 1921, Oil on canvas. The Philadelphia Museum of Art. A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952 ©2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York Willing to take on the challenge and contribution to Picasso 1973-2023: The Fiftieth Anniversary,  New York’s Museum of Modern Art brought these four significant works together for the first time since they left Picasso’s Fontainebleau studio in 1921. Anne Umland, the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture,  and her assistants, Alexandra Morrison and Francesca Ferrari, examined the works diligently, and then had them installed with other Picasso works completed at the same time in order to study this pivotal period in this artist’s very long and extraordinarily productive career.  Their query is: What was Picasso thinking?  We have, on the one hand, his late Cubist style for Three Musicians,  and, on the other, his “Ingres-esque” classical style for the Three Women at a Spring. What should we take away from this disparate combination?  Three Women at the Spring, Fontainebleau, summer 1921, oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan D. Emil ©2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

Lead photo credit : Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881–1973 Three Musicians, Fontainebleau, summer 1921 Oil on canvas 6' 7" x 7' 3 3/4" (200.7 x 222.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund ©2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

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Beth S. Gersh-Nešić, Ph.D. is an art historian and the director of the New York Arts Exchange, an arts education service that offers tours and lectures in the New York tristate area. She specializes in the study of Cubism and has published on the art criticism of Apollinaire’s close friend, poet/art critic/journalist André Salmon. She teaches art history at Mercy College in Westchester, New York. She published a book with French poet/literary critic Jean-Luc Pouliquen called "Transatlantic Conversation: About Poetry and Art." Her most recent book is a translation and annotation of "Pablo Picasso, André Salmon and 'Young French Painting,'" with an introduction by Jacqueline Gojard.


  •  Marilyn Brouwer
    2024-02-29 06:17:37
    Marilyn Brouwer
    Fascinating as always Beth. Good to read you again. Kindest Maz


    • Beth Gersh-Nesic
      2024-03-06 11:55:51
      Beth Gersh-Nesic
      Dear Maz, Thank you so much for reading this article and your kind remarks. I am honored. Best wishes to you too, Beth