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London to stage first major exhibition of Picasso portraits for 20 years

The National Portrait Gallery in London, in collaboration with the Barcelona Picasso Museum, has set up one of the most comprehensive collections dedicated to Picasso´s portraiture ever created. In London, more than 75 works of art will show each of the artist´s phases and varying techniques, a testament to “his unique vision”. Exhibition curator Elizabeth Cowling noted that it has “never ever been done before” to show the artist´s work in a museum “dedicated entirely to portraiture”. Furthermore, this is the first time that the London museum will feature portraits of figures that aren’t British. The exhibition will later be held in Barcelona, where the collection will be extended by five pieces, one of which will be lent by the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time.


11 April 2016 07:24 PM



London (CNA).- In collaboration with the Barcelona Picasso Museum, the National Portrait Gallery in London has set up one of the most comprehensive retrospectives ever created for Picasso´s portraiture work. In the exhibition, more than 75 of the artist´s pieces will show each of Picasso´s phases and illustrate all the different techniques he used, depicting “his unique vision” in portraits. “Picasso goes further than the physical representation of the person”, explained the director of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Bernardo Laniado-Romero, “he searches for their essence”. This is not only the first time that the artist´s portraits are shown in a museum “dedicated entirely to portraiture”, noted the exhibition curator Elizabeth Cowling, but this is also the first time the National Portrait Gallery features art in which the subjects are not British. The pieces, which will be shown starting on the 6th of October, come from Paris, New York, Chicago and from private collections. ‘Picasso Portraits’ will also come to Barcelona, with 5 added pieces, in March of 2017. 

“The idea came from the last director of the National Portrait Gallery”, explained the exhibition curator, Elizabeth Cowling, “he wanted to open the gallery to a new public and make the collection more accessible”. “Picasso was an obvious and fascinating choice”, the curator continued, “not only because he´s known by the public but also because he was a great portrait painter”. This will be the first time that Picasso´s portraiture could be seen within a context “dedicated entirely to portraiture” and also the first time that the National Portrait Gallery of London will host an exhibition “in which the portrayed figures aren´t British”.

The pieces, to be shown from the 6th of October to the 5th of February in London, pass through all the phases and pictorial styles employed by the artist. “There´s realism, cubism, surrealism, and there’s additionally a wide variety of techniques”, explained Laniado-Romero. ‘Picasso’s Portraits’ includes masterpieces such as ‘Woman with Hat’ but is also comprised of pieces never before seen in the United Kingdom. Within the techniques that the artist employed to create these works, one can see anything from large canvases to sketches and collages. Most of the pieces come from the Barcelona Picasso Museum, from the Paris Picasso Museum, from the Centre d´Art Pompidou of Paris, the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) and the Art Institute of Chicago. Additionally, much of the art also comes from private collections.

“Visitors in London will see how Picasso´s work fits perfectly with its contemporary portraits shown at the gallery, but they will also see how they match with transgressive portraits of the 21st century”, noted Cowling. In Barcelona, the exhibition “goes further than the portrait and is especially centred on the artist. “It´ll be a bit more extensive and its objective will be to emphasise the importance of the portrait in the life and work of Picasso”, the curator affirms.

An extended version of the exhibition will come to Barcelona

“We will have around eighty pieces at the Barcelona Picasso Museum”, stated Laniado-Romero, referring to the five additional pieces of art compared to the London collection. “The series inspired by ‘Las Meninas’ [a 1965 Baroque painting by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez] will be more complete”, added the director.

Perhaps the most important piece to be shown in the Catalan capital and not in London is the ‘Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’, a cubist piece from 1910, to be lent, for the first time, from the Art Institute of Chicago. “It´s the Art Institute of Chicago´s masterpiece and, for us, a great honour to be able to show it”, noted Laniado-Romero.

A “necessary” exhibition

“No major exhibitions dedicated to Picasso´s portraiture have been done since 1996 at the New York MoMa”, explained Laniado-Romero. “This exhibition is not only important but also necessary”, he continued, “as it was essential to review the concept of the portrait within Picasso´s work that had been done since then”.


  • 'Picasso's Portrait's' exhibition curator Elizabeth Cowling speaks at the presentation of the exposition on the 11th of April, 2016, at the National Portrait Gallery in London (by ACN)

  • 'Picasso's Portrait's' exhibition curator Elizabeth Cowling speaks at the presentation of the exposition on the 11th of April, 2016, at the National Portrait Gallery in London (by ACN)