As part of the fiftieth anniversary of Picasso’s death, the Musée Picasso-Paris launched over thirty exhibitions in European and American museums as part of “Picasso Celebration: 1973-2023.” Young Picasso in Paris” comprising ten paintings and works on paper is currently on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The intimate exhibition highlights a significant Picasso work, Le Moulin de la Galette (ca. November 1900), from the museum’s own collection.
Before he brought us Cubism and Surrealism, Picasso was as enchanted by the City of Lights as any fresh faced nineteen-year-old during their gap year. The Spanish-born painter made the trek from Barcelona to Paris to catch a glimpse of his own painting, Last Moments (ca. 1898) which was exhibited in the Spanish pavilion of the Exposition Universelle throughout the fall of 1900. During his trip, he embraced true Parisian joie de vivre by haunting art galleries and bohemian cafés by day and dance halls and clubs by night.
The Guggenheim found that, after over one hundred years, Le Moulin de la Galette had racked up some grit and grime that needed to be cleaned up and restored to its original beauty. The museum initiated an extensive conservation research and treatment project, and what the team and their partners found was astounding. Technical imaging revealed that at an earlier stage Le Moulin de la Galette included a lapdog seated on a chair in front of the table at the bottom left of the painting.
As the final composition evolved, Picasso decided to cover the dog with strokes of brown paint, leaving what now looks to be a pile of coats heaped onto a chair – discarded by the dancers in the distance. Picasso directed more attention toward the figures and the space by eliminating the canine. Nevertheless, he left visible clues of the compositional change, which would become a frequent practice for the artist.
Officially settling in Paris in 1904, Picasso found inspiration in all aspects of modern life, from the mundane to the unconventional. Leaving the naturalistic teaching of his art professor father behind, Picasso painted what would become his Blue Period in the early part of the century. However, as seen in these paintings of his pivotal first year in Paris, the father of modern art was already well on his way to greatness.