Re- Cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO

Re-cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO


By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis

Picasso. The name is as famous as it is as revered as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. And one of his shows: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso in France is housed in Toronto at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for the duration of the summer.


Though I consider myself more of a writer and photographer than an artist, I didn’t want to pass up on a chance at seeing Picasso’s work in the “flesh”—for a second time. My husband and I had seen the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal a number of years back when we were still single.

This is one of my favourite charcoal drawings by Picasso, “The Embrace (The Kiss), which I first saw at the Picasso Erotique show in Montreal.


The architecture of the AGO in itself is an elaborate art piece from its large wooden staircases to its grand ceilings and open concept skylights.

AGO staircase. (c) Photo by Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez.


The show opened with a number of black and white personal photographs of Picasso and his family, which created an immediate intimacy for the voyeur.

But, the oil painting that struck me as one of my favourites almost immediately was the oil on canvas piece called Olga in an Armchair painted in Montrouge in the spring of 1918. Its portrait held a sad, yet simple grace that embodied a woman who was not only Picasso’s first wife, but a woman who later had to bear the adultery of her famed husband.

“Olga in an Armchair.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1918.


I especially liked the floral brocade on the armchair that matched the hem of Olga’s skirt. And if you look closely enough at the original painting you’ll notice a hint of Olga’s silver necklace.

And at the edges of the painting are brushstrokes of what seems to be excess paint from Picasso’s brush. I assume this wasn’t intentionally meant to be a part of the piece, but has remained intact since its 1918 inception.

I loved this painting so much, I bought a print before returning home!

The grandeur of The Acrobat painted in Paris on January 18, 1930 also caught my attention with its fluid contortion and its sheer size. The painting is all limbs with no torso and embodies Picasso’s nightmares about his body and his loved ones’ bodies changing, which according to the descriptive piece about the painting, “anguished him.”

“The Acrobat.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1930.


A smaller painting, gouache on plywood, Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race) painted in Dinard in the summer of 1922 was beautifully detailed right down to the curl of the women’s hair. The print below does not do the original justice, so those of you who can make a trip to the AGO before the summer ends, I suggest that you do. The detailing and the colour of this piece is a feast for the eyes. And though the women are heavy in stature the painting evokes a wonderful freedom and exuberance with one breast bared on each woman and one woman hanging her head back in exhilaration.

“Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race).” Gouache on plywood. Pablo Picasso. 1922.


 Another beautifully coloured painting is the oil on canvas, Nude in a Garden created in Boisgeloup on August 4, 1934. The pink flesh of the woman in the painting is bright with her head lying back and her arm behind her head in relaxed ecstasy. The painting’s bright colours especially the pink flesh against the green backdrop of the garden with voluptuous white flowers reflect an obvious eroticism in Picasso’s painting, which is further explained when the viewer realizes the painting is of Picasso’s mistress, Marie-Therese Walter.

“The Nude in the Garden.” Oil on canvas. Pablo Picasso. 1934.


Overall, the showing was pent-up with the buzz of audience excitement since quite a number of patrons came to the show even with the slotted entrance times. The exhibit filled approximately four to five rooms that included mixed media, oil paintings, and sculptures. Though it wasn’t as intense as the Picasso Erotique showing in Montreal, it was an overlay of work by a master whose creations have not yet lost its appeal.

For those who are not as familiar with Picasso’s work, the Masterpiece show at the AGO is a good place to start. For avid fans of his work, the show will help you reminisce of the first time you fell in love with the genius that is Picasso.


“I paint the way some people write an autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages from my diary.” – Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)


What is your favourite piece created by Pablo Picasso?



One thought on “Re- Cap of the Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Exhibit at the AGO”

  1. AGO is a must-visit whenever I’m in TO. Great that you can go see these Picasso’s. I saw a few when i was visiting France in 2010. But no, we don’t get them here in Cowtown Calgary. 😦 On another note, thanks again for intro. me to Picmonkey. I’ve just posted the results after learning about it from you. 🙂

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