Early Exhibition Reviews of Famous Artists

Picasso visited Paris for the first time in 1900. The city had such a profound effect on him, he returned the following year with 100 paintings in hand, hoping to land a show. The 19-year-old painter was introduced to Ambroise Vollard — the same dealer who sponsored the works of Cezanne and other notable artists — who immediately secured a spot for him at a gallery on the prestigious Rue Laffitte. Picasso was unknown at the time, but the 75 paintings that ranged from moody portraits to representational works featuring landscapes, prostitutes, and society ladies proved he was extremely talented and driven.

This Sunday marks the 111th anniversary of Picasso’s Paris exhibition. The few critics that did attend the show gave him favorable reviews. Years later, the painter’s exhibit in Switzerland drew enormous crowds and the criticisms of some very prominent figures. Find out who after the break, and see what other reviewers had to say about famous artists throughout history during the early part of their careers.

Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s 1932 Zurich retrospective at the Kunsthaus — which was previously planned as a three-artist show with Léger and Braque — was unusual in that he selected all 225 paintings to be displayed and hung them himself (not in chronological order). The artist drew crowds in record numbers, and more than 30,000 visitors were able to finally see paintings from his Blue and Rose periods, as well as cubist, neo-classical, and still life works all in the same museum.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung became one of Picasso’s biggest critics, prompted by the retrospective, which the doctor described (the work and the layout of the show) as “schizophrenic” and practically… satanic. “The picture leaves one cold, or disturbs one by its paradoxical, unfeeling, and grotesque unconcern for the beholder. This is the group to which Picasso belongs,” Jung wrote in an article after seeing the exhibit. He also described Picasso’s “underworld form” as that of a “tragic Harlequin.” Jung also wonders aloud what might be next for the artist.

“As to the future Picasso, I would rather not try my hand at prophecy, for this inner adventure is a hazardous affair and can lead at any moment to a standstill or to a catastrophic bursting asunder of the conjoined opposites. Harlequin is a tragically ambiguous figure, even though — as the initiated may discern — he already bears on his costume the symbols of the next stage of development. He is indeed the hero who must pass through the perils of Hades, but will he succeed? That is a question I cannot answer. Harlequin gives me the creeps… ”

Freaking out Jung sounds like the best review ever to us.