Curtain for Parade, 1917, Pablo Picasso
Exhibited in Palazzo Barberini.
“Parade”, 10x17 meters, is the largest artwork ever painted by Picasso. It belongs to the Modern Art Museum of the Centre Pompidou, but is very seldom exhibited given its fragility and the difficulty of transportation and presentation caused by its size.
With World War I, Picasso’s production evolved. The war had dispersed its circle; Apollinaire, Braque, and others left for the front, while most of Picasso’s Spanish compatriots returned to their neutral homeland. Picasso stayed in France, and from 1916 his friendship with the composer Erik Satie took him into a new avant-garde circle that remained active during the war. The self-appointed leader of that nucleus of talents who frequented the Café de la Rotonde was the young poet Jean Cocteau. His idea to stage a wartime theatrical event in collaboration with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes resulted in the production of Parade, a work about a circus sideshow that incorporated imagery of the new century, such as skyscrapers and airplanes. Cocteau went to Satie for the music and then to Picasso for the sets and costumes. Work began in 1917, and he went with Cocteau to Rome, where they joined Diaghilev and the choreographer of Parade, Léonide Massine. It was on that occasion that Picasso met his future wife, Olga Khokhlova, among the dancers.
Parade was first performed in May 1917 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Picasso disarmed the public with the contrast between his basically realistic stage curtain and the startling Synthetic Cubist constructions worn by the characters, the sideshow managers, in the ballet.
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