Pablo Picasso Flowers In A Vase

by Jed Morse / Chief Curator / Nasher Sculpture Center

Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection On the Road

This fall, one of the most extraordinary works in the Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Pablo Picasso’s Flowers in a Vase, will travel to New York to be featured in a landmark exhibition of the artist’s sculptures at The Museum of Modern Art.

Picasso Sculpture is the first major U.S. museum exhibition of the artist’s work in the medium in nearly 50 years. Featuring more than 100 sculptures, as well as select photographs and works on paper, the exhibition presents a sweeping survey of Picasso’s work in three dimensions that aims to advance the understanding of what sculpture was for Picasso, and of how he revolutionized its history through a lifelong commitment to constant reinvention.

The Nasher’s Flowers in a Vase is one of a small group of assemblages that incorporate ceramics, made between 1950 and 1953. Willing to use any implements at his disposal, Picasso constructed this bouquet out of a variety of materials. He modeled the flowers in plaster, utilizing small pastry molds to help form the circular pattern of the petals. The iron strap and bars that reinforce the stems are clearly visible on the closed flower, the tip of the bar becoming a pistil. Picasso made the leaves into curving, voluminous lobes and incised lines on their angled faces to indicate the veins. The vase is an actual ceramic vessel. With its references to life, growth, and simple, everyday pleasures, as well as the vanitas tradition of still-life painting, Flowers in a Vase is a symbol of new life and a return to normalcy assembled from the scrapheap of World War II.

Many years ago, x-rays were taken of the sculpture to better understand how Picasso made it, as well as assess its structural condition. These images reveal the improvisatory nature of the armature, with a variety of screws and nails, sometimes tethered or elaborated with bent wire, hidden within the plaster and ceramic forms. These x-rays, taken while the work was still in the Nashers’ home, were made by a relatively low-powered, mobile, medical x-ray unit. When Flowers in a Vase travels to New York, it will be x-rayed again with a more powerful machine in the conservation lab at MoMA.

Picasso Sculpture is organized by MoMA in collaboration with the Musée national Picasso – Paris, and is on view in New York from September 14, 2015 – February 7, 2016. The exhibition will then travel, in part, to Paris where a related exhibition, Picasso Sculptures from March 8 – September 18, 2016 will be shown at the Musée national Picasso. While Flowers in a Vase will return to Dallas after New York, the Nasher’s iconic Head of a Woman (Fernande) will join the exhibition in Paris. The French installation will explore Picasso’s sculpture as an art of reproduction and reinvention, gathering together numerous examples from sculptural series, such as Glass of Absinthe, as well as variations, casts, reproductions, and enlargements. The Nasher Head of a Woman (Fernande) will be shown alongside the only other extant plaster, as well as bronze versions from two editions, for the first time since the Nasher Sculpture Center and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., presented them in Picasso: The Cubist Portraits of Fernande Olivier in 2004.