Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, 17 September 2023 - 7 January 2024
Sprengel Museum Hannover, February - May 2024
Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) and Max Beckmann (1884 – 1950) are key figures of modernism. In the first half of the 20th century, both made decisive contributions to a redefinition of the possibilities and tasks of representational painting. However, it has never been possible to compare their works and thus their artistic attitudes and views on a broad basis and within the framework of an exhibition. The Von der Heydt Museum Wuppertal and the Sprengel Museum Hannover have joined forces to make this possible for the first time. With its exhibition the Von der Heydt Museum is an official partner of the international project “Celebration Picasso 1973-2023”, which will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death in 2023.
For the joint project, the two museums draw primarily on their own rich holdings. The Von der Heydt Museum was the first museum in the world to acquire a painting by Pablo Picasso, in 1911, and one of Max Beckmann’s key works, his “Self-Portrait as a Nurse” (1915), was secured for public art ownership in Wuppertal as early as 1925 by the Barmer Kunstverein.
Beckmann and Picasso, who lived through the turbulent era from the Fin de Siècle through two world wars to the period after 1945, have shaped our view of the 20th century with their art. Starting from different premises, they independently arrived at individual solutions to major questions of art and their work revolves around similar issues of human existence. In spite of their different artistic views, their positions touch each other again and again in surprising ways. While both artists destroyed old rules of pictorial order on the one hand, they also drew on art historical traditions on the other; be it, as in Picasso’s case, to continue art history according to new, individual standards, or, as in Beckmann’s case, to create a pictorial cosmos shaped by modern myths. Both require an intensive examination of the image and its possibilities: of the relationship to representationalism and spatiality, of the relationship between figuration and abstraction, and of the renewal and reinterpretation of iconographic traditions. But Picasso and Beckmann also addressed their own lives, their artistic self-image, the political and social conditions of their creative work and contemporary events with vitality and verve.
Picasso and Beckmann developed their life’s work independently of each other and moved within different networks. For this very reason, it is remarkable how they often acted shoulder-to-shoulder, as it were, in their efforts to give new
meaning and direction to representational painting that concentrated on man and his relationship to the world, and how they arrived at parallel views. On the other hand, they often took diametrically opposed positions.
Although the two artists, Beckmann and Picasso, probably never met in person, not even during Beckmann’s multiple stays in Paris, they perceived each other. Indeed, Beckmann felt challenged and spurred on for life by Picasso’s unprecedented success in the international art world. He would have loved to see his paintings exhibited alongside those of his secret rival. Picasso, on the other hand, is known to have appreciated Beckmann’s work. After visiting the latter’s first exhibition in Paris in 1931, he is reported to have said of him, “Il est très fort.”
The patron of both exhibitions is the French Ambassador in Berlin, François Delattre.