The Prado is exhibiting one of the most important works from Picasso’s Rose Period, loaned from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow
Acrobat with a Ball will be on display for three months (16 September to 18 December 2011) within the Prado’s 'Invited Work' programme, which is sponsored by the Fundación Amigos del Museo and also includes Caravaggio’s Entombment loaned from the Vatican Museums and on display until this Sunday.
Friday 16 September 2011
As part of its 'Invited Work' programme, the Prado is now offering visitors the exceptional chance to see Acrobat with a Ball, one of the most important works from Picasso’s Rose Period. It will be on display at the Prado for three months and represents the first occasion in forty years on which the painting has left the Pushkin Museum as well as its first presentation in Spain.
The painting, acquired by the American writer and collector Gertrude Stein, passed to Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s gallery from where it was sold to the Russian collector Ivan Morozov in 1913. After the Russian Revolution the Morozov collection became part of the State collections and was principally divided between the two great Soviet public museums: the Pushkin in Moscow, which added Picasso’s painting to its collection in 1948; and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. Further significant works from the Hermitage previously in the Morozov collection will also be seen in Madrid this November with the opening of the exhibition The Hermitage in the Prado, thus bringing about a temporary reencounter between these paintings.
In the words of Irina Antonova, Director of the Pushkin Museum: “Picasso is not just a painter” for Russia but rather “a reformer, the figure around which that great dramatic step took place, the radical transition that was personified in Russian Avant-garde through figures of the stature of Malevich and Kandinsky.” Due to the importance for the Pushkin Museum of Acrobat with a Ball the painting has only been loaned on four occasions, all of them major international exhibitions of which the most recent was the one on Picasso held at the Tate Gallery in London in 1960 preceded by the major retrospective to mark Picasso’s 90th birthday held at the Louvre in Paris in 1971.
Another indication of Picasso’s importance for Russia was the sensation caused by the first exhibition on the artist held there in 1956, which included works sent by Picasso himself and by the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg, a personal friend of the artist. For Irina Antonova, that exhibition marked the definitive acceptance of Picasso as a “brilliant artist” given that he had previously been seen as a relatively controversial figure.
Acrobat with a Ball
From 1904 onwards Picasso regularly went to the Cirque Medrano, which was located near his studio in the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre. The Impressionist painters had already been interested in the circus, attracted by its light and movement. Picasso’s interest, however, was of a more universal and profound nature. Through the symbolic figures of the world of the circus he offered a reflection on the life of the artist while also using this theme as part of his process of investigation on fundamental issues of painting. The two principal figures in the present work reveal the two poles of Picasso’s art: creativity and fantasy on the one hand and seriousness and rigour on the other. The figure of the female acrobat on a ball, which is also to be seen in another important painting of this date, The Family of Saltimbanques (Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection), reveals Picasso’s characteristically playful temperament. His close friend, the writer Guillaume Apollinaire, interpreted this motif as a dance of the stars in reference to the radiant harmony of the cosmos.