Modern Masters

Picasso In Chicago

Ana B. Remos

Chicago was the first city in the United States to exhibit Picasso’s work in the 1913 Armory Show


The Chicago Art Institute, home to one of the most important art collections in the United States, presents Picasso and Chicago. The display includes several pieces from their catalog of works by the Spanish artist, which consists of more than 400 pieces.

Founded in 1879, the Chicago Art Institute owns a permanent collection of nearly 300,000 works (curated by eleven conservation departments), housed in eight buildings that cover almost 11 million square feet in the heart of the Windy City.

The Museum hosts 30 special exhibitions annually, as well as hundreds of lectures, conferences and all kinds of presentations and events and, according to their figures, welcomes 1.5 million visitors every year.

The Chicago Art Institute organized this exhibition as a tribute to the century-old relationship between the city and the artist. Chicago was the first city in the United States to exhibit Picasso’s work in the exhibition Armory Show from 1913, which brought together European artists considered innovative at the time. For that reason Chicago is considered Picasso´s gateway to the North American public.

The 250 works will be displayed in the Regenstein Hall of the CAI. The exhibit showcases paintings, sculptures, engravings, drawings and ceramics from the Institute´s collection and from private collections in the city. In addition, there will be lectures, documentaries, and from Picasso´s own collection, a selection of works by other painters.

The presence of Picasso’s work in Chicago was somehow “discreet”, but that ended in 1967 when one of his pieces, a 50-foot sculpture, was installed in Daley Plaza. Today it is a reference and meeting point for different cultures and international visitors. However, in 1967 the sculpture was so misunderstood that its removal was considered, to be replaced by the statue of baseball player Ernie Banks.

Two of his most celebrated drawings are among the first pieces acquired by the Chicago Art Institute: Sketch of a Young Woman and a Man (1904), and Study of a Seated Man (1905). Probably the most striking paintings by Picasso at the CAI are The Old Guitarist, 1904, an oil on wood from the artist’s blue period; and a much lesser-known work that is probably more compellingly expressive and dramatic, The Frugal Meal of the Acrobats, an etching on zinc (from 1904, published in 1913).

There is only one work from the artist’s cubist period at CAI, an oil on canvas from 1910 titled Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler; and from the abstract period: Background with Cloudy Blue Sky, from 1930.


Dancer. The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Mrs. Richard Q. Livingston.

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