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By Richard Kendall

One of my favorite occupations is to sneak into the galleries and join the visitors as they look at the exhibition.  It fascinates me to see which pictures they linger over and how they react  to a new gallery as they walk in.

Everyone–even curators!–has their different way of behaving in this situation. Some wander silently, other focus fiercely on each object. Couples tend to look then talk, then look and talk again. A few heroic souls read every label and every wall panel, others disregard them but have their audio-guides clamped to their ears from beginning to end.

A few sightings this morning:

Two women standing in front of the two laundress paintings, one by Degas, the other by Picasso. The women were looking back and forth between the two, chatting about them and presumably comparing them. Two serious women talking about two serious women.

In the room devoted to ballet scenes, a little girl–perhaps four or five years old–running toward the huge photograph of Olga Khokhlova, then looking up at as it towered above her. Is that Picasso, Mommy?

A solitary lady in this same gallery, who was laughing out loud at a pair of sculptures of dancers by Degas and Picasso. I liked this lady, and I think Picasso would have too, though I’m not so sure Degas would…

A group in the café was obviously less impressed by the exhibition: “Bit of a stretch,” one man said, “and that ballet room was the dumbest…”

The last room (with the brothel scenes) can always be relied upon for some action. Today there were several older visitors in rapt concentration, scrutinizing the prints from close quarters. One couple was explaining the works to each other solemnly, while another group was letting out peals of laughter.

–Richard Kendall, Curator-at-Large

Image credits:

Woman Ironing, 1876-87, by Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas, 81.3 x 66 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (1972.74.1) Image Courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Woman Ironing, 1904, by Pablo Picasso. Oil on canvas, 116.2 x 73 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser, 1978 (78.2514.41) c. 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Is it August ALREADY?

I don’t know if this happens to you, but sometimes I’ll read a review of an exhibition and think, “Sounds good, I really want to see this.” But I look at the dates and I think, “Oh, it’s on for ages. I have plenty of time to get there.” Then, before you know it, time starts to accelerate and suddenly, the show is open for less and less time, and you can’t get there because…whatever, life gets in the way.

So, with that in mind, I was walking through Picasso Looks at Degas this afternoon, making the most of it while I can.  And I was stopped in my tracks once again by the prints in the last room.  I used to make etchings myself, many years ago, and I have always been attracted to these magical images that are the end result of various rather complicated processes.

In purely technical terms, Degas’s monotypes and Picasso’s etchings are amazing things.  A monotype is produced by painting with ink on the surface of a metal plate, manipulating the marks, then brushing, wiping, or smearing them with the fingers or with a piece of cloth, and finally running the plate through a press.  When the ink is transferred to paper it produces a unique image with a character that is distinctly different from any other kind of print.

Making an etching involves covering a metal plate with a thin film of acid resistant wax, then drawing lines through the wax with a needle.  When the plate is immersed in an acid bath, the acid eats into the metal only where the lines have been drawn, producing grooves below the surface of the plate that will hold ink when the plate is printed.

A plate can be left in the acid for various lengths of time, so it’s possible to produce lines of different depths that print in different ways: fine, elegant, sinuous lines or rich, thick, black, almost violent marks etched deep into the metal.  Both Degas and Picasso were imaginative and experimental printmakers who exploited the different techniques with remarkable originality.

But these prints are much more than technical tours-de-force.  Each in its own way is a powerful, intense, passionate image, and in some cases, they are also very funny.  Degas’s small, intense monotypes invite us to look closely at the women in their various states of undress, and at the men who stare at them, entranced, enraptured, seduced by the sight.

In Picasso’s etchings, the women display their naked bodies gleefully, reveling in their own physicality, enjoying the sight of little Monsieur Degas standing with his hands clasped tightly behind his back, looking appalled to be seen in their company, like a naughty schoolboy caught peeping through a bathroom keyhole.  Degas’s intimate images draw us into the private world of the Parisian bordello; Picasso’s prints, made in his late ’80s, celebrate sensuality with an almost wild, exuberant energy.

Fortunately, the exhibition still has a few weeks to run. It closes on September 12th, which means I still have some time to spend with these spectacular images.  But if you want to see the show without having to go to Barcelona, don’t delay.  Don’t think “Oh, it’s on for ages, I have plenty of time to get there.”  The clock is ticking, and September 12th will be here before you know it!

Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts

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By Elizabeth Cowling

I have always loved curating exhibitions, not least because I am an inveterate exhibition-goer myself, gaining more from them than I generally gain from books.

For me, the best bit by far is the installation period. At the Clark we had about a fortnight—a generous allocation. Direct, intimate engagement with the art one has selected so carefully makes up for all the problems, the anxiety, and the inevitable disappointments endured along the way.

Even though one spends years researching a show and struggling to obtain the loan of key works, and even though the lay-out has been debated and argued over and planned in minute detail, the sense of fresh discovery and sheer excitement as the crates are opened one by one is intoxicating.  You can get addicted to it, craving the creative intensity, tension, and energy of the whole experience as soon as it’s come to an end.

Everyone gathers around to watch as the paintings and sculptures are removed extremely slowly and extremely carefully from their layer upon layer of packaging and lifted ever so gently onto specially prepared tables so that they can be examined meticulously by conservators to make sure that nothing has gone wrong in transit and that they really are in the state their owners claim.  These works of art are so precious, so valuable and indeed so beloved that the atmosphere is hushed and hallowed as this tender disinterment takes place.

Afterwards, with the work safely unpacked and ready to hang, there is usually quite a lot of enthusiastic exclaiming and uninhibited joking because the tension has been temporarily released.

I love talking to conservators when they are compiling their ‘condition reports’: they point out things that one all too easily misses if one isn’t trained to their degree of eagle-eyed expertise and they tend to express quite strong opinions about the artist’s technique and skill.  They can be quite critical, but equally they will go into raptures when they see something really exceptional.

Art handlers are often artists themselves and although their job is to keep unpacking the works according to a well-rehearsed, standardised routine, then to hang them wherever the curator decrees, patiently moving them an inch here, an inch there at the curator’s whim, they too can get charged up.

The team of art handlers at the Clark is excellent.  They know each other well and there’s a great spirit of camaraderie. But they were every bit as amazed and childishly delighted as Richard Kendall and me when the plaster of Picasso’s Running Woman came out of its crate and was tenderly placed in its vitrine in the ballet section of the show.  We all gasped as it emerged and then burst out laughing because the body of the woman is so outrageously proportioned and she seems to be irreverently spoofing the Degas bronze that is her partner in the show.

Picasso modelled the plaster himself—it isn’t a plaster cast of a figure modelled in clay—and you can see his finger marks and almost follow his gestures and his thinking as he rapidly built the figure up.  It’s very, very fragile of course, and, frankly, I’m astonished that we got it at all because original plasters almost never leave their homes. It’s one of the highlights and rarities of the show.

Humor, incidentally, is a strong current throughout and if you find yourself laughing, don’t be surprised or embarrassed.  Both of our artists were wits and both had a highly developed sense of the absurd, although Picasso’s humour tends to be broader, not to say coarser than Degas’s. One delightfully comical pair to look out for is of hefty naked ladies, back view, awkwardly clambering out of their bathtubs.

The gallery that gave me the greatest thrill to install is the large, light, open one with the women ironing, bathing, doing their hair, and being pregnant.  (The aforesaid naked ladies are exhibited there.) All the works, whatever their medium, seem to interact with each other, and the more you look the more connections between them you notice.  It’s almost dizzying, to the point where one forgets who—Picasso or Degas—made what.

We thought we knew exactly where everything would go in that gallery, but we made quite a lot of subtle and not so subtle adjustments when we were actually hanging it.  I think everyone working there felt on a high—elated when everything was finally up, but also a little sad because the fun was over and we couldn’t play with our glorious toys anymore.

I’m writing this at my desk in cool, showery Edinburgh and my great regret is that I am not in Williamstown wandering about in the galleries, looking and thinking, and trying to gauge the reaction of visitors.  Great works of art are always much more complex, ambiguous and changeable than one is inclined to remember, and they say different things in different circumstances on different days.  They are literally alive.

Artists know that of course and that’s why they find the art ‘of the past’ a constant challenge: it isn’t “of the past,” it’s of the present.  That’s why Degas in his time looked to so many other artists for inspiration; that’s why Picasso in his time looked for inspiration to Degas (among others), and why he found his dialogue with Degas endlessly stimulating.

Image credits:

Pablo Picasso, Pregnant Woman, 1950. Bronze, first state, height: 104.7 cm. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972 (HMSG 72.232) [© 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / Photo by Ricardo Blanc.

Edgar Degas, Pregnant Woman, c. 1896—1911. Bronze, height: 43.2 cm. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest, 1981 (HMSG 86.1415) / Photo by Lee Stalsworth.

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Our Young Picassos

Picasso once said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” Well, inspired by the “Picasso Looks at Degas” exhibition, the Clark and the Albany Times Union teamed up to give Capital Region students (grades 4 through 12) the opportunity “steal” from Picasso and create their very own self-portraits. The drawings were entered in a contest for the chance to win some very cool prizes.

Today, we are proud to announce the two winners!

From grades 4 through 8:

by Margaret Murnane (12 years old, 7th grade, Shaker Junior High School)

From grades 9 through 12:

by Julia Vining (9th grade, Bethlehem Central High School)

Margaret and Julia will receive a slew of wonderful prizes, including a gift certificate, publication of their work in the newspaper, and a gift bag of Picasso-related goodies from the Clark, as well as a special tour of the “Picasso Looks at Degas” exhibition and a picnic dinner.

Congratulations to the winners, and to all of our wonderful artists, whose work is featured in the slideshow below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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Edgar Degas, "Combing the Hair (La Coiffure)," c. 1896. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London. Bought, 1937 (NG4865).

Picasso Looks at Degas is full of allusions and quotations: a repeated subject here, a suggested reference there.  Degas’s and Picasso’s laundresses labor at their ironing side-by-side, while one of the Desmoiselles d’Avignon plants herself in a pose too similar to that of Little Dancer Aged Fourteen to be ignored.

These sorts of visual variations lead the exhibition visitor along a path that explores so much more than a chronological amble through the two artists’ careers.  More than that, the show offers a real expedition into the artists’–especially Picasso’s–working methods and how they make their works work on the viewer… but perhaps in expected ways.

Picasso’s public–from the early twentieth century to today–has noted the correlations between his paintings and the those of other artists (including El Greco, Rembrandt, Velazquez, and Manet*), between his art and other expressive genres, like music, poetry, dance, and theater.  Some of these associations–for example, the crossovers between Cubism and jazz and atonal music, or between Cubism and the writings of Gertrude Stein–have been thoroughly explored by historians of the modern age.
This sort of approach helps us conceive of how art has “worked” within a broader social, cultural, and political context–i.e., how an artist or his/her pictures might have been received or understood in the past and present alike.

As an art historian, I feel like I approach most pictures (in this show and others) with this kind of… well, intellectual baggage, if you will.  I try to remember what I’ve read or seen in my studies in order to make connections and try to understand each picture as best I can.  But sometimes, I have to remind myself to drop the bags just look, and that’s what I’ve really enjoyed doing in Picasso Looks at Degas.  By freeing myself to let my mind play with what I see, by not getting too bogged down with what I think I know, I let the show take on a much more personal feel.  Let me offer a couple of examples.

Degas’s Combing the Hair (La Coiffure) from the National Gallery, London, has been one of my favorite paintings by the artist since the semester I spent studying abroad in London during college.  A class I was taking on “Art and Everyday Life” met at the National Gallery to discuss some of our most recent readings on Realism and Impressionism in front of the paintings themselves–always an important exercise!  I remember that Combing the Hair hung in a gallery that felt much larger than the Clark’s, in close proximity to another Degas hair-combing picture, Beach Scene of 1869-70 and the large Gustave Caillebotte Man at his Bath of 1884.

Do I remember exactly what we discussed that day?  No.  Do I remember that the conversation was important for my appreciation of the works I saw?  Yes.  And this beautiful picture of hair combing also makes me think of the punky hairdo of the professor of that same “Art and Everyday Life” course, Dr. Frances Stracey, whose intellectual curiosity and energy were contagious.  Sadly, I recently learned that Dr. Stracey passed away from cancer last year, at a very young age.  I now think of this professor, who inspired me to study art history at the graduate level, every time I look at this picture.  It feels miraculous that it is here at the Clark for the summer.

Another example.  My 18-year-old brother recently paid a visit to the Clark, and I loved walking through the exhibition with him.  When I asked him what his favorite works were, he guided me to the final gallery of the show, where the brothel scenes are displayed.  I started to roll my eyes and formulate a snarky remark about nude women, but he pointed to the meek figure of Degas that appears in each of Picasso’s etchings.  My brother has a very expressive face, and he replicated Degas’s looks of shock and embarrassment at being in the brothels to a tee.

Perhaps my brother was projecting his own teenage embarrassment of having to look at naked women in public onto Picasso’s image of Degas.  But I also like to think of his engagement with these pictures in terms used by the exhibition curators: in their text on the exhibition microsite, they describe Degas as Picasso’s “alter ego” in many of the late pictures, as a projection of some part of Picasso’s self into these charged works.  My brother happens to be a connoisseur of comic books and graphic novels, in which superheroes are the alter egos of all-too-human protagonists (think Superman and Clark Kent, Spider-Man and Peter Parker).   Hmm… Super Degas?  Now, when I enter this final gallery, these connections between my brother, Degas, and black-and-white graphic art call to mind Charles Burns’s dark comics series Black Hole (published in full by Pantheon in 2008), which offers its own, bizarre take on teen angst.   (Any of you out there who have read it know what I mean.)

But enough about me.  What about you?  With these musings and free associations in mind, perhaps we can allow that the allusions and quotations in Picasso Looks at Degas are not confined to the interplay between the pictures hanging on the walls.  We can also think about the interplay between the pictures and ourselves, between the pictures and our own particular memories and personal histories.   What sorts of  thoughts and feelings come to mind on your visits to Picasso Looks at Degas?  What poems, songs, or memories are called up by the works on view?  I hope you’ll post your comments and share.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the show!

Sarah Hammond, Curatorial Assistant

* See some examples of Picasso’s engagement with other artists besides Degas in this New York Times slideshow of the 2008 exhibition Picasso and the Mastershttp://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/10/27/arts/20081027_PICASSO_SLIDESHOW_index.html

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Degas Looks at Picasso

Portrait of Sebastià Junyer i Vidal, 1903, by Pablo Picasso. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. David E. Bright Bequest. M.67.25.18. Museum Associates / LACMA / Art Resource, NY. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso /ARS, New York).

Who is this Spanish upstart about whom I have been hearing so much? Could this Picasso boy be that handsome dark-haired kid I’ve seen hanging around in the neighborhood in Montmartre? Why is he in Paris anyway?  Is he spying on me?

I think one of his lady friends–and from what I hear, he is a bit of a ladies man—is friends with my model Benedetta Canals. I am beginning to wonder if the two women have not, in fact, visited my studio together and are reporting back to him about what I am working on.  I’ve heard that Picasso is looking at my work and taking it as a challenge to create his own, trying to best me. Well, we’ll have to see about that! A bold proposition by the young man, to say the least.

I’ve been looking at Picasso lately, and I see that he is certainly a talented draftsman. His figure drawings are quite remarkable and show incredible technical skill—and perhaps a touch of artistic promise.

I’ve seen his portrait of Sebastià Junyer I Vidal—obviously a rip off of my painting, In a Café. But perhaps I have dismissed our friend too quickly; this painting of his is really quite bold and impressive. Interesting how he makes the gentleman the focus of the painting, as opposed to the young prostitute, and the direct stare of his subject is captivating. 

This young Picasso seems fascinated with women doing their hair, which is a subject that I am very familiar with myself. And, again, he seems to have been looking at my work and trying to make it his own. He has done a massive painting of a woman wringing her hair that is admittedly striking. It seems he painted it quickly but with much passion. Also, much as I often do with my own work, he has gone back to it a number of times. Most remarkable is the way in which he uses geometric shapes and abstraction to depict this woman—Although I wonder what the model thinks…

OK, so maybe this young Spaniard bears watching.  And if he insists on peeking in on me, I will have to keep an eye on him as well.

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Studies by Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso

(Left) Degas, Study for "Dante and Virgil", c. 1856-57. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. (Right) Picasso, Academic Study from Life: Male Nude, from the Side, with a Pole; Sketch of Head and Bust of Male Figures, 1895-97. Museu Picasso, Barcelona. © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, New York.

So… The show has been open for a couple of weeks now and the reactions have been very positive so far.  People seem to like the premise: that at various times in his life Picasso was influenced by Degas in various ways.  But they also seem to like the element of mystery: just exactly what did Picasso see, what did he know, what did he think?  And why did he become so fascinated by Degas, in particular?

The exhibition suggests a range of possible reasons, but more and more as I walk through the galleries, I’m struck by two – apparently contradictory – characteristics the artists have in common: both of them were gifted and academically trained draftsmen, and drawing was a central element in everything they did; at the same time, both of them were endlessly inventive technically, each of them pushing the parameters of painting, printmaking and sculpture beyond the limits explored by their contemporaries.  Degas’s monotypes, for example, are still amazingly ‘modern’, even 120 years after they were made.  And Picasso’s small-scale figure sculptures leap and pirouette hilariously, parodying Degas’s elegant dancing figures and at the same time poking fun at the self-consciousness of ‘Classical’ ballet.

I knew the exhibition was going to be interesting, that the juxtapositions would be revealing, that seeing this variety of work at the Clark would be exciting.  I have to say, I had no idea how much fun it would be.  I’ve been watching visitors as they move through the galleries and their smiles get wider as they pass from one section to the next.  When you visit the show – and we hope you will – prepare yourselves for some serious delight.

Michael Cassin, Director, Center for Education in the Visual Arts

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Pablo Picasso, "Self-Portrait," 1896. Oil on canvas. Museu Picasso, Barcelona (MPB 110.076). © 2010 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ARS, New York.

I’ve been thinking a lot about family these days.  Father’s Day was last Sunday, June 20 (did you remember to call your dad?) and this coming Sunday, June 27 is Family Day at the Clark, the can’t-miss family event of the summer (more on that later).  It is with these events, people, and relationships in mind that I have been revisiting the pictures in Picasso Looks at Degas.  While the exhibition is manifestly about two great painters and the undeniable influence of one (Degas) on the other (Picasso), by no means does it suggest that the story follows a simple, two-person script chronicling a the lives of geniuses locked away in their studios.  Friends, lovers, spouses, sisters, cousins, and fathers all make their appearances in the different acts of the show, from the early years of the artists’ artistic training, to Picasso’s arrival Paris in the early 1900s, and even in the show’s dénouement set in the bedrooms and boudoirs of brothels. 

The most visible and engaging entrées of Degas and Picasso family members occur in the first gallery of the exhibition, which explores the artists’ earliest engagement with drawing and painting the human figure.  For both artists-in-training, family members were often the only consistently available models from which to make life studies; parents and siblings appear in some of their earliest efforts.  Picasso’s sister, Lola, poses in a fantastic charcoal and colored pencil drawing from 1899, in which her dark, heavy-lidded eyes stare back at her brother (and the contemporary viewer) with an arresting gaze that seems at once comtemplative, brooding, and bored.  A vigorous study by Degas of his cousin Giulia Bellelli, whose family he visited during his travels in Italy, hangs nearby; the loose, spirited application of paint used to suggest the outline of her dress complements her spritelike, highly finished face.  And in a conté crayon drawing by his precocious son, Picasso’s father, José Ruiz Blasco, appears as a man-about-town, dressed in an overcoat with collar upturned, a rolled copy of the magazine Gil Blas Illustré jammed into his pocket.  Hat in hand, with lips parted, he seems to have been caught off-guard by a passer-by in the streets of Barcelona.  

In retrospect, don José’s appearance in this gallery is also the first moment in the show when we sense what kind of overbearing presence that his father–or, perhaps, father figures–might have had over Picasso.  Across the gallery from the portrait of his father hangs a self-portrait by a 14-year-old Picasso, paired with the Clark’s self-portrait by Degas, aged 24.  Picasso’s is a dark canvas;  the sense of teenage angst is expertly captured in the young man’s downwardly cast eyes and almost fretful appearance.  At the time the picture was painted, Picasso was working under the watchful, encouraging eye of his father; a painter in his own right who taught art at academies in Malaga and Corunna, don José was his son’s first instructor and mentor.  Recognizing his son’s talents from an early age, don José worked tirelessly to help develop young Pablo’s skills, encouraging him to study the Old Masters and emerging modern styles alike.  Although Picasso deeply respected his father and his chosen career and clearly flourished under his tutelage, one wonders about the pressures the adolescent must have felt under such close scrutiny.  In this light, the self-portrait takes on a sullen, perhaps even defiant air — “I refuse to look you in the eye. ”  Perhaps not so surprising then that the artist would gain such a reputation as a rebel against convention.

Fathers and sons come full circle in final section of the exhibition, which focuses on the elderly Picasso’s reflections on the work and person of Degas, whom he identified as his artistic father.  That he considered their bond to be a familial one is telling: although the two men never met in person, Picasso felt his relationship to the elder artist to be so close, so intense, that it was marked with as many gestures of respect, petulance, admiration, and rebellion as that between any father and son.  This lifelong fascination, of course, plays out over the entire exhibition.  But it is in the final gallery that Degas literally appears in Picasso’s work, in one (possible) portrait from 1968, and in several plates from a suite of etchings set in brothels.  Etched in 1971, shortly before Picasso’s death, the lewd, comical pictures insert Degas–who had also printed several  scenes of prostitutes, madames, clients, and brothels, nearly one hundred years earlier–into the action.  He stands primly and anxiously to the side of these scenes, a voyeur into this world of women.   Knowing that Picasso believed there to be a striking physical resemblance between his father, don José, and Degas could lead one into deep psychoanalytic waters when looking at these pictures.  Instead of wading into Picasso’s notions of sexuality–Degas’s, his father’s, and his own–I will instead point you to curator Elizabeth Cowling’s fascinating and expert reading of the prints in the exhibition catalogue.  But for now, I will point out a clever, show-closing pairing of Picasso’s early red watercolor portrait of his father with a photographic portrait of Degas that was owned by Picasso–the resemblance between these two father figures is striking. 

In the end, I think that Picasso Looks at Degas invites us to consider the idea of a “family resemblance” between the two artists not just in terms of similar facial features, but also in terms of their art.  By associating Degas with his father, and by going so far as to regard him as something of a father-figure, Picasso suggested that, for better or for worse, his work and practice had in many ways descended from that of the elder artist.  In this way, we might think of Degas and Picasso stemming from the same branch on the larger art historical family tree–but a branch that is brambly, twisted, and entangled with many other branches, and that bears some very thought-provoking, um, fruit (to push the metaphor to its limits).

So — after following all these musings on family, be sure to grab yours and head to the Clark this Sunday for Family Day!  This year’s extravaganza promises an abundance of exciting activities and events, all connected to Picasso Looks at Degas and our other great summer exhibition, Juan Muñoz, in really creative (and sometimes, downright funny) ways.  Mechanical bullrides, flamenco dancing by the spectacular Inés Arrubla, and castell acrobatics (builders of human towers!) will infuse the day with Spanish and Catalonian flavors, as a nod to the shared national heritage of Picasso and Muñoz.  Dancers from the Albany Berkshire Ballet and the perfomance artists from the Picasso People troupe will bring the works of both Degas and Picasso to life.   Budding artists can try their own hands at printing monotypes or arranging collages, while others might prefer to sit back and watch masterpieces emerge from blocks of ice at the hands of sculptor Craig McConnell.  And, riffing on the theme of bathers as explored in Picasso Looks at Degas, our Family Day organizers, Ronna Tulgan-Ostheimer and Monica Henry, are offering the sure-to-be popular “Take a Bath” sprinkler park, where little dancers and artists can cool down after a long day of fun in the sun (we hope!).  

Check out the full schedule for the day, which starts at 11 AM and runs till 4 PM, here: http://www.clarkart.edu/visit/event-detail.cfm?ID=13426&CID=7  

See you at the Clark!

Sarah Hammond, Curatorial Assistant

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The week of openings and special events is behind us, culminating in last Saturday’s summer gala.  Despite the rain, everyone enjoyed the Spanish vibe – heaping plates of paella and sips of sangria interspersed with soaring opera arias and fantastico flamenco footwork, and of course long visits to the galleries to soak in the amazing art now on our walls.  Were you there, perhaps relaxing with friends in the magical central tent while listening to the strolling guitarists?  I hope so!

The first public opening day – Sunday – found the place humming with people and energy.  If you haven’t already seen the show, don’t wait too long to make the trip – I predict that as the summer progresses, the crowds will continue to grow, making NOW the ideal time to visit. And when you come, you won’t want to miss a trip to our Stone Hill Center galleries for the amazing sculptural work of Juan Muñoz – trust me!

It’s been a privilege to work on this show with all of my talented colleagues, and we are more than thrilled to see our work come to such satisfying fruition.  Please join us – I’ll see you in the galleries!

Kathleen Morris

Director of Collections and Exhibitions

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Well, it’s finally ready: after several years of work (and even more than that on the part of the curators, Lizzy Cowling and Richard Kendall), we’ve actually brought all these amazing works together at the Clark, and “Picasso Looks at Degas” will be unveiled in just a few days! There’s nothing like seeing the real thing — paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures — going up on the walls or on their pedestals, after working with little thumbnail images until now. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself thinking “wow, those really DO go together”! 

There are a lot of great moments in the exhibition — Degas’s famous In a Café (L’Absinthe) next to Picasso’s intense Portrait of Sebatià Junyer i Vidal, and The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen standing between two amazing paintings by Picasso, the early, violently-colored Dwarf and a Standing Nude the artist made at the same time he was working on his ground-breaking Demoiselles d’Avignon (the painted figures are posed almost exactly like the Little Dancer!). But one of my favorite moments is a more subdued one: three cases with small sculptures of dancers. Degas’s figures are carefully studied and modeled, and they strike identifiable ballet poses, like “grand arabesques” and “fourth position front.” Picasso’s, on the other hand, are comically exaggerated and distorted, with tiny little arms and huge, long legs, and heads shaped like half moons or little blobs. Frankly, they’re hilarious, but they also echo the ballerinas’ poses and clearly suggest exuberant figures moving through and taking up space just like Degas’s dancers do. And when you know that Picasso sculpted his figures just a few months after seeing Degas’s sculptures in an exhibition in 1931, the similarities between them just have to be more than coincidental!

I’ve spent the past couple years working on this material with Lizzy and Richard, and it’s been a fantastic project. I hope everyone finds the exhibition as thought-provoking — and as beautiful — as I have.

Sarah Lees, Associate Curator of European Art

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Welcome!

Welcome to the Clark’s blog for our upcoming exhibition, Picasso Looks at Degas! We are busy with final preparations for the installation of the magnificent works that will be on view beginning June 13. We look forward to sharing thoughts and ideas on Picasso, Degas, and the exhibition with you. Check back soon!

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