How often do you think of the landscape surrounding you? Not just the hills and trees but the architecture and people too? The Mississippi Museum of Art invites guests to look deeper into landscapes by observing some of Pablo Picasso’s most striking paintings.
The newest exhibit, “Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds,” opens Saturday, Nov. 11, and runs through March 3, 2024.
In a media preview Thursday morning, Nov. 9, newly re-elected Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann spoke on how the exhibit is part of a broader mission to bring different cultures into downtown Jackson. He said opportunities such as this “educate our children on the world as well as what’s out there beyond.”
Similarly, Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn spoke on the importance of art.
“Art is vital to the history of mankind,” Gunn said. “We have paintings and drawings that record history. We have paintings and drawings that allow man to express himself. It evokes emotions in us that move us to action.”
The Clarion-Ledger got an exclusive walk-through preview with curator Laurence Madeline on Wednesday. Madeline said she curated the exhibit to answer the question: “Is Picasso a painter of tradition or a painter of change?” Landscapes, she said, were an understudied part of Picasso’s life work.
The Picasso exhibit is divided into three connecting rooms at the Mississippi Museum of Art. At the beginning, viewers are greeted with an oil landscape of hills and a blue sky painted on a small piece of wood. The painting, titled “Mountains of Málaga,” depicts Picasso’s birthplace. Picasso painted it in 1896 when he was 15 years old.
As viewers move past the first painting, the gallery takes them on a journey through Picasso’s ever-evolving style of painting landscapes.
Throughout the exhibit, videos are projected onto the walls. Those videos, some actually made by Picasso himself, connect the viewer from a painting to the context behind it. They give the reader a look behind the art and a deeper understanding of Picasso’s life and world events at the time of each painting. Madeline said the extra additions add “volume” to the paintings.
One TV screen shows grainy, black-and-white footage of Picasso’s wife, Olga Khokhlova, taken by Picasso himself. Madeline said when she found that footage, which was kept in the family for years following the artist’s death, it blew her mind.
“We have here quite intense moments where you have to consider the landscape as in a different way,” Madeline said.
Before turning into the middle room, guests can participate in an interactive feature. Sketchpads are provided with the instructions: “Draw like a cubist: Draw from life. On your paper, start by drawing in the center of your paper and build your composition outwards from there. Experiment with combining elements from each photograph,” printed on the front. Participants are then invited to draw a meaningful place from memory.
The exercise is meant to put the viewers in Picasso’s shoes. The photos on the wall next to the sketchpads show views from Horta de Sant Joan, a place that influenced many of Picasso’s earlier landscapes.
More Picasso exhibit:Mississippi Museum of Art to exhibit Pablo Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds. Details here
Viewers can look at the photographs and then at the nearby paintings to compare. Picasso rarely used photographs as references when painting. Instead, he tried to capture the essence of a place, not create a hyper-realistic copy.
A display case of postcards sits in the middle room in front of Picasso’s 1940 painting “Café in Royan.” The postcards are some that Madeline found that show the same café, one that Picasso would frequent for a glass of water. Picasso painted this piece to have a visual memory of his beloved café, similar to how the postcards serve as memories for visiting people.
The exhibit concludes with the last landscape Picasso ever painted. The artist painted the piece, simply titled “Landscape,” in 1972 at the age of 91. Next to the landscape is a TV displaying footage of an announcement of Picasso’s death on April 16, 1973.
This exhibit honors the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death. Madeline said the competition was fierce to get these paintings. Jackson marks the third and final stop for the traveling exhibit. The first two stops were Charlotte, North Carolina, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
Madeline said people in Jackson will benefit from the exhibit, especially since not many have been to places like Paris. Most importantly, it will push visitors to consider their own landscapes in life.
“What I hope is that people will be curious and that people will understand that they are themselves living in landscapes,” Madeline said. “And I hope that people will have the conscience of understanding that we are talking about the places where they live.”