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100 Works for 100 Years

Picasso and Chicago, opening February 20 (Members’ Preview starting on the 16th) in Regenstein Hall, will celebrate the rich history Pablo Picasso shared with our fair city. Although Picasso never visited Chicago (or any U.S. city for that matter) his impact on Chicago is clear—the most obvious (and tallest) evidence being Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture, the centerpiece of Daley Plaza since 1967.

A mutually-beneficial relationship began much earlier than that, though, not long after the dawn of Picasso’s career. In 1913, the Art Institute hosted the International Exhibition of Modern Art (aka the Armory Show). It included seven works by 31-year-old “Paul Picasso.” Though the Armory Show made stops in New York and Boston, the Art Institute was the first legit museum in the United States to ever exhibit Picasso’s work. Critics writing about the show regarded the young artist’s work suspiciously. Just ten years later, though, the first Picasso entered the Art Institute’s collection; in 1923 trustee Robert Allerton donated Sketches of a Woman and a Man (1904) and, a year later, Study of a Seated Man (1905).

The rest is literally history, and it’s all summed up quite handily in the forthcoming catalogue accompanying the exhibition. Curator Stephanie D’Alessandro charts the life and times of Picasso and his relationship to Chicago in an illustrated chronology starting with the Armory Show (see image above) and leading right up to the opening of the exhibition. Picasso and Chicago: 100 Years, 100 Works contains 100 of the 250+ works slated to be on view in the exhibition. The catalogue takes a few cues from the Art Institute’s 1968 publication Picasso in Chicago: Paintings, Drawings, and Prints from Chicago Collections, released in conjunction with an exhibition celebrating Picasso’s 85th birthday.

Like the 1968 exhibition, Picasso and Chicago has at its core, and indeed couldn’t exist without, a collecting community in Chicago that embraced Picasso soon after his work arrived in America—a community that has generously donated much of that work to the Art Institute over the past 100 years.

Image Credit: The Cubist gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago’s presentation of the 1913 Armory Show.