The Museo Picasso Málaga presents Picasso’s first wife Olga Khokhlova and her story in the first show of its 2019 exhibition calendar. The exhibition Olga Picasso was inspired by the letters and photographs found in the travel trunk of the Russian dancer, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso’s grandmother. The exhibition focuses on the years of Olga’s relationship with Picasso. It offers context on the creation of some of Picasso’s greatest works, connecting them with a personal story that developed alongside another, political and social, story.
Olga Khokhlova (Nezhin, Ukraine, 1891– Cannes, France, 1955) was the daughter of a colonel in the Russian Imperial Army. In 1911 she joined the prestigious and innovative Ballet Russes company, which was at that time highly successful in Europe under the direction of Serguei Diaghilev. She first met Pablo Picasso in Rome in the spring of 1917, when the artist was designing the sets and costumes for the ballet Parade. They were married in Paris, on 12th July 1918, and their first and only child, Paul, was born in February 1921. The couple separated in 1935, although they remained married until Olga’s death in Cannes, in 1955.
The Russian ballerina’s travel trunk, which her son received when he inherited the chateau of Boisgeloup—currently owned by the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte (FABA)—contained previously unseen letters and photographs. For many years, the drawers harboured Kodak envelopes full of photos that told the story of Bernard’s grandparents, their life together, their travels, Picasso’s ateliers and more. In other compartments lay hundreds of letters in French and Russian, tied with little pink or blue silk ribbons. Olga’s trunk, engraved with her initials, also held her dance attire, ballet shoes, tutus, programmes and such personal objects as a Crucifix and a Russian Orthodox Bible. The contents of the trunk, which was the only personal belonging Olga kept after her separation from Picasso, revealed new aspects of the artist’s work during their relationship.
Approximately 350 items will be shown in the exhibition, including paintings, works on paper, photographs, letters, documents and films. It has been jointly curated by Émilia Philippot, conservator of the Musée national Picasso-Paris; Joachim Pissarro, professor of art history and director of Hunter College Art Gallery (New York); and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, co-chair of the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte, FABA, president of the Executive Board of Museo Picasso Málaga and member of its Board of Trustees. The exhibition has been adapted for Museo Picasso Málaga by José Lebrero, the museum’s artistic director, and Sofía Díaz, its exhibitions coordinator.
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