Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Crispiniano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso—or just Picasso, if you prefer—would have been 131 years old today. It’s fair to say that very few artists have shaped the course of art, or have been as endlessly inventive, as the Spanish master. Those are two reasons to celebrate the day of his birth. But here in Chicago, we have even more reasons—all of which will become clear when we open Picasso and Chicago in February of next year. The exhibition will feature more than 250 of Picasso’s works—mostly drawn from the Art Institute’s permanent collection but also including significant loans—that honor the artist’s special relationship to Chicago.
Picasso holds a particular place in the hearts of Chicagoans and here at the museum. The Art Institute was the first museum in the United States to show Picasso’s work, when it was sent from Europe as part of the Armory Show in 1913. While the Armory Show was seen in both New York and Boston, only the Art Institute—rather than a private arts club or organization—braved the storm to take the exhibition on. Ten years later, for the Arts Club of Chicago, the Art Institute hosted Picasso’s first solo show in the United States. In 1926, we acquired The Old Guitarist, one of the landmark works in our collection and the first museum acquisition of Picasso’s work in the United States. And of course visitors and residents alike recognize that Chicago is one of the few—if not the only—city in the world to have a monumental sculpture by the artist as a piece of public art.
Picasso continues to fascinate us. Just recently, the work of Art Institute conservation scientist Francesca Casadio and paintings conservator Allison Langley—working with physicists at Argonne National Laboratory—presented their research showing that Picasso was the first artist to use house paint in his work. You can read more about that here and see all the details in February when we open Picasso and Chicago.