26 October 2019–until further notice
Acrobat Family by Pablo Picasso, owned by the Gothenburg Museum of Art, is one of the artist’s iconic works from the rose period, during which he depicted acrobats from the world of the circus. In poetic interpretations, he shows the everyday life of the acrobats – behind the scenes, often with an undertone of melancholy. Acrobat Family belongs to a series of works painted by Picasso in early 1905, for an exhibition in Paris. This series marks the beginning of the rose period, in which Picasso moved toward a lighter tone in his work, regarding both mood and colouring.
Acrobat Family has been a part of the collection at the Gothenburg Museum of Art since 1922. Even though it is one of the Museum’s most sought-after and celebrated works, it has only been on loan to other museums around fifteen times. In conjunction with a loan to the comprehensive exhibition about Picasso’s blue and rose periods at Musée d’Orsay and Fondation Beyeler, a thorough assessment of the work’s condition was carried out, which subsequently led to a major conservation project.
To mark the fact that the work now has returned to the Gothenburg Museum of Art, it will be shown in a new presentation that tells the exciting story of the work’s history and the museum’s important task of preserving the cultural heritage for future generations. In collaboration with international research teams, ongoing analyses aim to increase our understanding of the materials and technique of the work, in order to find the best solution for the conservation of the painting.
In the presentation A Close Study of Acrobat Family – Perspectives on Picasso, Acrobat Family is shown along with seven other works by Picasso from the collection of the Gothenburg Museum of Art. In dialogue with the works, we also show three new films that provide in-depth information about the themes and provenance of Acrobat Family and the ongoing conservation project.
International conservation project
The ongoing conservation project of Acrobat Family has clarified some of the uncertainties regarding the technique used by Picasso in the work and shed light on its condition from a conservation perspective. Early in his career, Picasso experimented with several different materials and techniques, ranging from gouache on cardboard to prints. During 1905, Picasso painted many works on cardboard, a cheaper material that probably reflected his financial situation, and which has had consequences for the condition of Acrobat Family. Thanks to the project, the light fastness of the blue pigments and the fragile state of the work’s cardboard support have been highlighted as important questions in the conservation of the work. To increase our understanding of the painting’s material, technique and condition, the Gothenburg Museum of Art has carried out scientific examinations in collaboration with CATS and MOLAB, within the European research project IPERION.
Acrobat Family was once owned by the art collectors and siblings Leo and Gertrude Stein, whose home in Paris was an important meeting point for artists and intellectuals. The painting was one of the first works by Picasso bought by Leo Stein from the art dealer Clovis Sagot in the autumn of 1905, and the acquisition of Acrobat Family became the start of an important friendship between Picasso and the Stein siblings. Even though all the details have not been clarified, we know that the work came to Sweden via the Norwegian art dealer Walther Halvorsen and subsequently to Gothenburg thanks to the art collector Conrad Pineus.
Top Image: © Acrobat family, 1905, Pablo Picasso / Bildupphovsrätt 2019
Photo: The Gothenburg Museum of Art