The Cleveland Museum of Art’s new exhibit, “Picasso and the Mysteries of Life: Deconstructing La Vie” offers viewers an all-encompassing look into “La Vie,” the culminating work of Picasso’s blue period. The exhibit features related works by Picasso, as well as works by other artists, which display Picasso’s progression up to the painting and the works that had a particular influence on him. Also featured in the exhibit are x-radiographs, infrared reflectographs, and other scientifically enhanced pieces to expose some of Picasso’s early drafts and offer more insight into his process.
Picasso’s blue period lasted from about 1901-1904, during which his paintings contained almost exclusively cool, somber colors, and an often dismal subject matter. The suicide of one of Picasso’s closest friends, fellow artist Carlos Casagemas, is thought to have sparked the blue period, as the unexpected death threw Picasso into a deep depression. Critics and art buyers of the time were mostly uninterested in the melancholy works produced during this literal blue period, and Picasso suffered financially. Today however, Picasso’s blue period represents some of his most popular and critically acclaimed pieces.
Picasso started the first sketches for “La Vie” when he was 21 years old and living with his parents in Barcelona. After many drafts and re-workings, “La Vie” became a complex allegorical narrative about life and art, a piece art historian John Richardson described as Picasso’s “first exorcism.”
The exhibition runs through April 21st and is accompanied by “Picasso and the Mysteries of Life: La Vie,” a 163-page book by William H. Robinson, curator of modern European art.