Russia's influence on Picasso feted in Moscow

Fri Feb 26, 2010 5:59am EST
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - Russia's influence on Pablo Picasso was celebrated at a new Moscow exhibit on the Spanish painter, sculptor and co-founder of the Cubism movement.

Picasso paintings of bulging-eyed women and sculptures bearing his trademark triangular noses feature in a 240-piece collection of works by one of most prolific and dominant artists of the 20th century.

The largest Picasso exhibit on Russian soil in over 50 years opened on Friday and it was the Russian influence on Picasso -- by way of his Russian wife and access to her world -- that excited those in the marble halls of Moscow's Pushkin Museum near the Kremlin, which is housing the exhibit.

"At that time, Russia was the capital of revolution and this energy impacted Picasso greatly, it affected how he created," Mikhail Shvydkoy, the Kremlin's cultural envoy, told Reuters.

Anne Baldassari, director of France's National Picasso Museum in Paris, which is lending the bulk of the works, said art movements and masters in Russia such as avant-garde painters Kazimir Malevich and Vasily Kandinsky played an "undeniably large" role in Picasso's life and inspiration.

A year after the Russian revolution of 1917, Picasso, who was born in 1881 in Malaga, married ballerina Olga Khokhlova, whose pensive glances and oval eyes came to characterize many of his painted women.

Though they separated bitterly after eight years when the painter started an affair with his 17-year-old muse, Khokhlova is believed to be the inspiration for Picasso's mother and child themes.

Walking past painting "Olga in an armchair", depicting Khokhlova with her head downturned in a drapey black and floral dress, Shvydkoy added: "He was surrounded by Russian culture and this made him a man of the world."   Continued...