Femme (“Demoiselles d’Avignon” period) 1907, Pablo Picasso. Oil on canvas, 119 x 93.5 cm. © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
LOS ANGELES, CA.– Pablo Picasso’s 1907 painting Femme is on temporary display at the J. Paul Getty Museum through March 2015. The painting, which closely relates to Picasso’s famed Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907, Museum of Modern Art, New York), will hang in the Getty Museum’s West Pavilion alongside portraits by Edouard Manet and Paul Cézanne, 19th-century masters whom Picasso greatly admired.
“This work represents a pivotal moment in Picasso’s career, marking the first experiments with fractured space that culminated in his revolutionary painting Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon of the same year and the creation of cubism,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Thanks to our Conservation Partnership Program and the support of the Getty Museum Paintings Council, over the next three months our visitors will have a unique opportunity to experience one of the landmark moments in modern art as if it were still happening ─ the fractured composition still carving itself into space around the woman’s head and the blocks of color still being laid out in form-defying blocks. Even alongside our Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, this striking work of modern art is a commanding presence that announces in explosive and uncompromising terms that a new approach to painting has arrived.”
Femme was created while Picasso was working on his masterwork Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a notorious brothel scene that stands out as a radical break from his earlier blue and rose periods. In this painting, Picasso’s burgeoning interest in compressed divided space and African masks is fully evident.
Femme is part of the collection of the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Switzerland and was brought to the Getty by their chief conservator, Markus Gross, who spent three months doing research related to the painting, working with Getty Museum conservators and Getty Conservation Institute scientists, to develop a conservation protocol for the work. When the painting returns to the Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland, Gross and his team will use the conservation protocols developed at the Getty to guide future work on the painting. While at the Getty, Femme was extensively studied using x-radiography, ultraviolet light, and multi-spectral imaging, among other techniques.
Said Gross about his time at the Getty: “For a conservator to work here is a kind of heaven. The facilities are the best in the world. And the collaboration and networking with colleagues has been extraordinary. While here, I worked with experts and lived with visiting scholars—art historians and conservators—the constant exchange of ideas was very fruitful.”
The J. Paul Getty Museum’s Paintings Conservation Department has a long-established program of bringing important paintings from around the world for conservation, study, and display at the Museum. Scientists from the Getty Conservation Institute—which works to advance conservation practice through research, education, applied field work, and the dissemination of knowledge—were consulted extensively on this project. The Getty Research Institute, which holds one of the world’s most important archives for the study of modern and contemporary art, was also an important resource.