Picasso Curtain Unfurled at New-York Historical

New-York Historical Society is the place to be this summer with a blockbuster installation sure to enthrall Picasso aficionados and history buffs. The museum recently acquired the largest painting by Pablo Picasso to be found this side of the Atlantic. At an astounding 20 by 19 feet, Le Tricorne (1919) was originally commissioned as a curtain for a Spanish ballet of the same name created by art critic and Ballets Russes founder Serge Diaghilev. Over the course of three weeks and wearing ballet flats while standing on the canvas, Picasso created the massive bullfight scene by applying traditional Spanish tones of orange and yellow with paintbrushes attached to broom handles and, for detail work, repurposed toothbrushes. Complete with toreros, matadors, and fashion-forward men and women known as majas and majos, Le Tricorne served as an appropriately Iberian backdrop for the ballet.

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Pablo Picasso, Curtain for the Ballet “Le Tricorne,” 1919. Tempera on canvas, ca. 20 x 19 feet. New-York Historical Society, Gift of New York Landmarks Conservancy, Courtesy of Vivendi Universal, 2015.22. © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

In 1957 Diaghilev sold the piece for $50,000 to Phyllis Lambert, daughter of Seagram Company CEO Samuel Bronfman. Its new home became the entry to the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building, where it hung for 55 years until 2014. The New York Times ran a piece last year examining the various reasons behind the curtain’s removal as well as the conservation issues involved with moving the massive Tricorne. When the curtain’s destiny was finally resolved, New-York Historical went to great lengths to transport it to its current location, and even filmed the process. (See a time-lapse video of the event here.)

Once again, the curtain fills a great wall, and now is surrounded by masterpieces that influenced Picasso’s work - paintings by El Greco and Goya (on loan from the Hispanic Society of America) - as well as Spanish-themed objects that were trendy in the early 1900s.

Le Tricorne was gifted to the New-York Historical Society by its owner, the Landmarks Conservancy, and is on long term display on the second floor Dexter Hall Gallery. More information about the piece can be found here.
      
      
 


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