Picasso and Chagall: IMAGINARY DIALOGUES

Mar.18 (Sat.), 2017 -Sept. 24 (Sun), 2017


Picasso and Chagall developed their distinctive styles in Paris when the city was the center of avant-garde art at the beginning of 20th century. Both were affected by upheavals in their homelands and through two world wars, and both produced prolifically throughout their lifetimes.
Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” He repeatedly introduced innovations with his strong lines and deformed objects. Chagall gained recognition as a painter of color and stories with his brilliant colors and light filled narrative landscapes of his hometown. The two painters were leading artists of the 20th century in their separate ways, but nevertheless fellow artists of the same period. This exhibition introduces around 80 works, mainly paintings, to explore the creative trajectories of these two artists.


Left: Ricardo Canals y Llambi, Pablo Picasso, 1904,
By Courtesy of Succession Picasso, Paris & SPDA
Right: Marc Chagall, 1910 (detail)

Chapter 1. Barcelona and Vitebsk

Just as Spain was a continual source of inspiration for Picasso, the landscapes of Vitebsk remained central to the paintings of Chagall. Picasso depicted the landscape and traditions of his country from the time of his early Blue Period (1901 – 1904) through to the bullfights he depicted in his latter years. His Mother and Child by the Sea (1902) is positioned against the background of a beach in Barcelona, an important locale in his experience, and shows influence of Spanish painter El Greco. For Chagall, the nature and animals of the small Jewish village where he grew up were lifelong themes. His early works capture the appearance of the simple yet strong inhabitants of Vitebsk. Later these images would overlap with landscapes of Paris, his adopted home, and Saint-Paul-de-Vence, his final residence.


Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child by the Sea, 1902, Pola Museum of Art
(c) 2016-Succession Pablo Picasso-SPDA (JAPAN)


Marc Chagall, I and the Village, ca.1923-1924, Pola Museum of Art
(c)ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 E2464

Chapter 2. Paris and the Avant-Garde

Picasso came to Paris in 1900. Chagall moved to the city in 1911. Picasso was at first charmed by Paris, but from 1901 depicted sad visages of his subjects, embarking on what would be called his “Blue Period.” In 1907, together with Braque, he delved into the suppressed color and multiple perspective forms of Cubism. Together with the poet Apollinaire, Picasso became a leader of the avant-garde movement in Paris. Chagall came on the scene ten years later when the next generation of Cubist painters and others influenced by Picasso were active. Chagall, however, did not adopt conventionalized Cubism at the time. Instead, he remained faithful to the subject of the landscapes of his hometown. While he did incorporate geometric expression, his style was distinctive for its lyricism and fantasy.


Pablo Picasso,Nude, 1909, Pola Museum of Art
(c) 2016-Succession Pablo Picasso-SPDA (JAPAN)


Marc Chagall, L'anniversaire, 1923, AOKI Holdings
Exhibition period: Mar. 18, 2017-Jun. 20,
(c)ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2016 E2464

Chapter 3. Loved Ones

Both Picasso and Chagall were highly celebrated as artists following the turmoil of World War I, when the “Roaring 20s” ushered in new trends such as Art Deco and Surrealism. Both artists also started families and their canvases became bright and hopeful. They depicted their family members and loved ones throughout their lives, although their expression, as well as their approach to their subjects, differed greatly. Picasso employed various techniques influenced by Cubism, classical painting, and Surrealism and, depending on the style he chose, he objectified or deformed the volume of familiar models. Chagall stretched or deformed the embracing lovers in swirling expressions of euphoria and passion in fantasy scenes with birds and flowers symbolic of happy memories.

Chapter 4. War and Resistance

When World War II broke out in 1939, Spain was dominated by Franco’s fascist regime and Jews, including Chagall, were facing a crisis of persecution. While Picasso remained in Paris, Chagall sought refuge in the United States. Witnessing and experiencing the misery of war, both artists communicated messages of “love” and “peace” through murals, tapestries, and stained glass. Picasso painted Guernica in 1937, in response to indiscriminate bombing of the Spanish city. The painting was exhibited at the Paris World Exposition. Until this painting, Picasso has eschewed narrative expression. Chagall emigrated to the United States in 1941. Although he was devastated by the treatment of Jews under the Nazis, he managed to succeed in creating artwork for the performing arts. In 1944 his beloved wife Bella suddenly died. Chagall’s canvases, previously marked by vivid colors, faded into paintings dominated by dark tones.


Guernica (tapestry), orginal: Pablo Picasso, tapestry: Jacqueline de La Baume-Dürrbach, 1983, wool, cotton, The Museum of Modern art, Gunma
Exhibition period: Mar.18, 2017-May. 11 (c) 2017-Succession Pablo Picasso-SPDA (JAPAN)

Chapter 5. The South of France

After the end of World War II, Picasso moved from Paris to the outskirts of Cannes in the South of France. There he produced ceramics, sculptures, prints and murals and reigned as the top artist of the 20th century. In 1950, Chagall also moved to the South of France, to Saint-Paul-de-Vence. He produced pottery as well. The two artists enjoyed socializing with their families and producing ceramics together. They had both come to France as foreigners, had experienced difficult times, and continued to be friendly rivals, never losing respect for each other. In the South of France, Picasso continued painting with his wife Jacqueline as his model, and Chagall painted glowing landscapes of Saint-Paul-de-Vence that were also reminiscent of his birthplace.