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chagall romeo and juliet
Charles Sorlier, after Marc Chagall. Romeo and Juliet, 1964. Poster after Chagall's painting for the ceiling of the Paris Opera. Color lithograph.

Picasso, Matisse, Chagall

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It’s said that greatness attracts greatness, and Paris in the early 20th century was home to many of the greatest artists of the century—people such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. Picasso, arguably the most famous modern artist in the world, even today; Matisse, the only painter Picasso considered a rival and a master of line; an…

Jim Richerson Sangre de Cristo Arts Center executive director
The Sangre de Cristo Arts Center’s executive director, Jim Richerson, is largely responsible for bringing this collection of prints to Pueblo.

It’s said that greatness attracts greatness, and Paris in the early 20th century was home to many of the greatest artists of the century—people such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall. Picasso, arguably the most famous modern artist in the world, even today; Matisse, the only painter Picasso considered a rival and a master of line; and Chagall, a one-of-a-kind artist whose unique style influenced several important art movements. These men not only knew one another, but drew inspiration from each other, an exchange you can witness for yourself at Sangre de Cristo Arts Center’s current exhibit, “Picasso, Matisse, Chagall,” a collection of over 70 prints by all three modern masters.
checking prints for damage is part of the curatorial process
Each piece had to be checked for damage and catalogued before hanging.

Bringing Modern Masters to Pueblo

How did such a major collection come to Pueblo? The credit lies largely with recently appointed executive director Jim Richerson, who was familiar with the anonymous owner of these works. Richerson stated that he was willing to do whatever it took to bring this collection to Pueblo. This first and foremost involved putting the collector at ease by hiring someone the collector knew to perform the initial inventory of pieces, then having the curator, Liz Szabo, personally transport the collection from Illinois back to Pueblo. The 70-plus pieces never left her sight during the approximately 20-hour drive.
On the Sangre’s end, the Arts Center hired more security guards in addition to the number required for American Alliance of Museums certification, installed climate control in the White Gallery, and switched out all the lights in the gallery in favor of bulbs that would not bleach or damage the paper of the prints.

Sangre de Cristo curator Liz Szabo
The Sangre’s curator Liz Szabo hanging prints in the White Gallery

Each piece was inspected before and after shipping for quality. Prints with minor damage were, with the owner’s permission, repaired before being put on display. Unlike with many other shows at the Sangre, the setting up of the gallery was limited to the curator and assistant curator and a few helpers, all of whom wore gloves during the hanging.
fixing damaged prints before showing is part of the curatorial process
Liz Szabo fixes damaged pieces before hanging.

Perhaps more important than how the exhibit came to Pueblo is the why. The collector is not a Rockefeller, trust fund baby, or billionaire industrialist—the type of person one might unthinkingly associate with collecting modern art masters. An optometrist by trade, he comes from a middle-class background and lives in the iconically provincial mid-west city of Peoria. His collection is a reflection of his fascination with the way people see—and indeed, many of the prints in this exhibit play with how people look: at other cultures, other people, and even other artists. As for why he’s willing to share his collection, the collector believes in art’s power to inspire anyone, whether they have an artistic bent themselves or not.
still life with musical instruments picasso
Still Life with Musical Instruments by Pablo Picasso, c. 1920. Pochoir printed in colors.

Picasso

The number and variety of pieces by Picasso in this exhibit is really unprecedented in Colorado. Even the Modern Masters show at the Denver Art Museum only had a single painting representing Picasso, Matisse and Chagall respectively (and not the greatest examples at that); the Sangre currently has nearly 80 pieces, the majority of which are by Picasso and cover most of the major art styles and periods of his long life—including his many affairs and marriages.
Picasso was an odd duck. Short, aggressive, a Spaniard through and through, much of Picasso’s work—and behavior—was a reflection of his machismo. This is why bulls are such a common motif in his work—not only are they a symbol of his native country of Spain and the matador, but of manliness.

the head of a bull by picasso
Tête de taureau, tournée à la droite, Picasso, 1948.
Lithograph print.

The women Picasso loved were also a major theme in his work. His wives, mistresses, girlfriends, and even children were a reflection of his virility and prowess, while at the same time serving as his muses. It’s been said that with every new love affair, he started a new art style. While that’s not exactly true, it is true that Picasso’s paintings, drawings, prints and ceramics served as a diary of sorts, documenting his emotional state and major life events. He rarely painted or drew people from life, particularly as his career advanced—he didn’t need to. Instead, Picasso drew from his extraordinary visual memory and created portraits that reflected how he saw and felt about his subjects, rather than how they actually looked.
dora maar by picasso
Tête de femme no. 4. Portrait de Dora Maar, Picasso, 1939.
Aquatint and scraper.

A perfec…
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