Due to the installation of the expansive special exhibition Jo Baer, some collections in the Museum Ludwig are temporarily closed.
The Picasso-Collection and the Surrealist rooms are closed for one week from April 22, 2013.
Afterwards, a selection of the collection will be on view again. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.
The Spanish artist Pablo Picasso left an incomparable mark on 20th century art. His name became synonymous with the innovation and freedom of Modernism, and his fascinating life work, which extended over seven decades, stands out on account of its unrivalled diversity. Initially this truly gifted artist took his inspiration from the paintings of the old Spanish masters. But shortly before the turn of the century he found his way into the avant-garde art scene in Barcelona, whose open, inspiring atmosphere was more congenial to his progressive spirit. In 1900 he paid a first visit to Paris, and for a while his work showed a recognisable stylistic influence from Impression, which set the tone of the day. Up until 1904 Picasso travelled several more times to Paris, where he then settled. The works of his Blue Period, which he embarked on in Barcelona in 1901, brought him via studies of El Greco and 16th century mannerism to his first personal form of expression. The mentally or physically bound deformation of his stylised, often elongated human figures was important to him as a means of breaking with harmonious representation. Likewise in his subsequent Pink Period from 1905 on, Picasso's interest was still completely directed to psychologically penetrating his figures.
In 1906 Picasso broke with the realist orientation of his paintings in favour of formal inquiries that expressed themselves in a simplifying, schematic approach. His interest in pre-historic Iberian (Spanish/pre-Roman) sculptures is evident; their pristine expressiveness gave him key impulses for the ongoing development of his work. In 1907 Picasso created his epochal masterpiece Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, which heralded Cubism. Any number of studies cast light on the artist's aims to find new ways to depict figures and integrate them into the surrounding space. They reveal an attraction to African masks and sculptures, which a lot of artists discovered at that time. Picasso stopped reproducing natural, curvaceous physiques, preferring instead an unwieldy, disproportionate anatomy. In close collaboration with Georges Braque, from 1908 to 1914 he honed his formal language until it constituted a radical revolution for the academic tradition: in the first so-called analytic phase of Cubism, he dissolved the contours and split the figure into a constellation of quasi-fragmented signs and forms. The figure on the canvas obeyed solely the laws of painting and became an autonomous object within reality.
In 1912 the language of Cubism changed with the introduction of the collage and the papiers collés. Cubism now entered its synthetic phase. This new phase was also typified by the ‘imprinting' of snatches of words or names on the painted composition. In this way Braque and Picasso managed to emphasise the planar quality of the picture surface in contrast to the plastic character of the painted objects. Numerous artists, such as Juan Gris, Henri Laurens and Fernand Léger, adopted the innovations of Cubism, modifying them to produce their own unique forms of expression. 1917 announced the beginning of Picasso's classicist period. The origin of this came from a visit to Rome, where he and Léonide Massine planned the stage designs for Massine's ballet Parade. Inspired by the antique sites in Italy, he now returned to painting and drawing naturalistic figural compositions, often using light and shade to create monumental bodies with voluminous forms. A characteristic element during Picasso's so-called Surrealist phase in the early 1930s is an extreme distortion of the female anatomy. During this, his women transformed increasingly into boneless formations with plant-like limbs.
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the bombardment of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Legion Condor the following year brought a new expressiveness and aggression to Picasso's work. The mural Guernica for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 World's Fair marked the high point of his political involvement against the barbarities of war. He met the Surrealist photographer Dora Maar, who became his model for the deformed figures from the war years. During this period, Picasso took the motif of the woman in an armchair to produce a series of anonymous portraits that inquired deeply into the state of the human soul during such troubled times.
Picasso not only revolutionised the art of the last century as a painter and draughtsman, but right from the outset he also made key contributions as a sculptor to the expansion of the traditional notion of sculpture. We witness here the unbridled freedom with which Picasso went to work, demolishing the boundaries between the traditional genres with his own inventiveness. Classical bronzes were as much a welcome challenge to him as constructions made of paper, card or cut-out tin. Object art, the assemblage and the environment - all art forms that had a determining influence on art after Second World War - are indebted to him and his decisive innovative impulse.
Over the years Picasso also worked as a ceramicist. With all their astonishing diversity, the ceramics he began producing in 1947 in Vallauris in the south of France are always regarded as an integral part of his sculptural oeuvre.
From the 1930s on Picasso repeatedly turned to the subject of "the artist and his model", and from 1953 on this became one the central themes of his old age. The man and artist, himself constantly ageing and ephemeral, faces the eternally young model, the epitome of youth, eroticism and the joys of life. Picasso's monumental figurative works from his latter years are painting par excellence. With complete freedom from all compulsion, he lived out the sum of his experiences from his long life as a painter in an exuberantly expressive style. In Picasso's last years the female nude dominated to the point of obsession. The 90 year-old painted and above all drew with an unremittingly creative drive, constantly revolving around the topic of sexuality as if wishing to ignore the inevitability of encroaching death.