|5. Catalogue introduction (pdf)|
Exhibition organized by the Botín Foundation in Santander and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. In October 2012, the latter museum will host a retrospective exhibition of the artist’s entire oeuvre. María José Salazar, member of the Conservation staff at the museum, is the exhibition’s curator.
The exhibition held in Santander at the Botín Foundation will focus on the Cubist period of this Spanish artist, who would become one of the leading figures of the avant-garde, with paintings reflecting her doubts and convictions. Born in the same year as Picasso, Gargallo and Vázquez Díaz, she belonged to a generation of artists whose recognition eclipsed her own.
María Blanchard (Santander, 1881 – Paris, 1932) was, and still is today, the lesser-known contributor of a group of artists who brought about an artistic renewal at the beginning of the 20th century. This year marks the 80th anniversary of her death.
Despite the time that has passed, a series of events unconnected to her artistic career led to her life story being full of gaps and glaring contradictions, and thus her oeuvre remained in the background in comparison to her peers and fellow avant-gardists, whose work she rivalled and on occasions even outshone.
Both exhibitions, at the Botín Foundation and the Reina Sofía Museum, aim to reappraise the contribution made in the early years of the 20th century by a woman wholly committed to her art, whom her friends, great artists too, acknowledged as their equal. Visitors will be able to discover the full importance of María Blanchard’s work thanks to these exhibitions.
Works on display
The exhibition on display at the Botín Foundation’s venue in mid-June will centre on the artist’s Cubist art (1913-1919). Indeed, this is the first scientific style exhibition to cover this period. The show will include pieces from international collections, many of which have never previously been shown in Spain and some of which are being exhibited for the first time anywhere. It is also the first time that drawings are on display.
The exhibition in Santander features 53 works, executed between 1913 and 1919, all of which correspond to the artist’s Cubist period. Fifteen of these paintings will not be shown subsequently at the exhibition in Madrid, which will focus instead on a broad retrospective featuring the artist’s whole oeuvre.
About the artist
The artist was passionately involved in the Cubist movement. Her oeuvre shows a striking evolution. From early Cubism –where she produced simple works with easily identifiable, figurative elements represented by overlapping layers depicting geometric forms– she evolved to a more synthetic Cubism of compositions where she pared-down the subject matter to its essential aspects expressed by means of views seen from a variety of perspectives.
She created a highly personal art in her use of colour, structure and her subject matter too. But her creative freedom was always foremost. María approach was demanding, sincere and sensitive, but above all it was unfettered. Hers is, therefore, a highly personal Cubism, distinctive for its formal precision, austerity and skilful use of colour.
Not only did she become successful thanks to these works, she also garnered the recognition of art dealers, critics and artists. She did not, however, manage to forge a lasting artistic trend in her wake, but she certainly contributed to the development of the movement with the same level of quality and significance as the other artists of her generation.
With Cubism Blanchard found a channel for expression which allowed her to demonstrate that, in artistic terms at least, she was the equal of some of the greatest avant-garde painters. In addition to producing some of her best compositions in this style, it was a period in which she shared experiences with her friends, Diego Rivera, Jacques Lipchitz, Juan Gris and André Lhote, to mention just the ones closest to her.
The fact that such prominent artists accepted her into their group without reservations is very significant – and she even shared studios with some of them, as was the case of Rivera and Gris, and travelled together for long spells through Europe, not to mention frequenting the art debating circles of Paris, in their company. Let us remind ourselves once again of the fact that she was a female artist working in an artistic milieu dominated by men.
María Blanchard lived in complex times, both as a woman and as an artist, which forced her to make some harsh social and material sacrifices to be able to devote herself completely to painting. From a conceptual point of view, one might appreciate certain parallels between Blanchard’s work and that of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in the way she transfers the life experiences, pain and suffering of the characters depicted in her paintings onto the canvas.
As an opener and a complement to the exhibition in Santander, the Botín Foundation, with Berta Sichel coordinating, has organized a film season about Germaine Saisset-Schneider (Amiens 1882 - Paris 1942), who is known in film history as Germaine Dulac. Like María Blanchard, Dulac worked in the purest avant-garde style: although there is no evidence the two ever met, their paths run parallel to each other in the difficult adventure of opening new channels for art. Films from the period will be screened at sessions held on the 19th and 21st of June, the 31st of July and the 2nd of August.
María Blanchard, Retrospective Exhibition at the Reina Sofía Museum
The exhibition comprises 77 works encompassing the three main periods into which Blanchard’s art may be divided: an initial Formative Period (1908-1913), which includes early works characterized by a permeability to the influence of her teachers, but already strongly imbued with her own personality. A second Cubist Period (1913-1919), in which she works side by side with the movement’s leading artists, and to which she brings her highly personal and distinctive style; and lastly, her late period (1920 – 1932), when she returns to figurative painting –which in terms of structure and composition is indebted to her earlier Cubist work– and which includes an important life-changing and art-changing moment in 1927.
Of the total number of works in the exhibition, 38 pieces from her Cubist period will be shown in Santander, while the remaining 39 paintings, which correspond to her first and last creative periods, will only be shown in Madrid.
María Blanchard. Cubist. Botín Foundation
June 23rd until September 16th 2012. Santander. Opening times, including holidays: 10:30 to 21.00. Free entrance.
Restricted Opening: Friday 22nd of June.
Venue: exhibition space at 3, Calle Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola.
María Blanchard. Retrospective exhibition. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
October 17th 2012 – February 25th 2013. Madrid.
Opening: Tuesday 16th of October.
Venue: Sabatini building at 52, Calle Santa Isabel.
Curator: María José Salazar.
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