Interview with Richard Kendall and Elizabeth Cowling, curators of the exhibition “Picasso looks at Degas“. Selected comments and complete video of the interview.
Richard Kendall: She works on Picasso, I work on Degas, and we said, well, here is a story, there’s a very interesting story, a challenge for us to put it into the form of an exhibition and to examine the way that Picasso looked at Degas, learned from Degas, got engaged with Degas’ art, and how that works out through the course of his career. That’s really the basis of the exhibition: it’s a very simple idea which we followed step by step through the show.
Elizabeth Cowling: The exhibition has several different moments. It begins with the very early work by both artists, when they are young, they are students, and there the idea is not that Picasso is in any way influenced by Degas, but that both of them have the same formation, academic training, they were learning to draw, the human figure was the absolute center of their work, and they produced works which are very similar in type, and in some cases, extraordinarily alike. […] The next section of the exhibition deals with the moment when Picasso first started going to Paris, and it was actually when he’d see the works by Degas in the original.
RK: The center of the exhibition is a gallery entirely dedicated to the idea of the dance, the dancers and the ballet. Degas, in his own lifetime, was called the artist of the ballet, and we have in that section the famous Little dancer fourteen years old, which was a scandalous sculpture in Degas lifetime, and Picasso’s responses to it, in paintings and drawings, etc.
EC: The final section of the exhibitions deals with an aspect of the exhibition that is much less known. Everybody has know for many many years that Picasso collected the brothel monotypes by Degas. […] Everyone has also known that, at the end of his life, Picasso made a suite of about forty etchings based on, inspired by, the brothel monotypes of Degas, in which he placed caricature portraits of Degas himself.
RK: We hope that people will see this as an exhibition that asks questions, as well as is making statements. It really is an argumentative exhibition in which we are putting forward a lot of new thoughts about Picasso and Degas, and putting forward new evidence about the relationship between Picasso and Degas’ work. Some of this I think comes across very strongly and almost seems unrefutable, some of it is much more open. And we hope that visitors coming into this exhibition will make up their own minds.
Richard Kendall & Elizabeth Cowling
Curators of the exhibition “Picasso looks at Degas”