Picasso, Klee, Matisse and Braque at Museum Berggruen

Museum Berggruen in Berlin. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Museum Berggruen are hosting an exhibition to conclude a three-year research project into the lives and work of Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. The exhibition also features a special section dedicated to the contemporary installation by French artist Raphael Denis. Denis’ piece shows how contemporary art addresses the subject of looted art.

Pablo Picasso played a huge role in 20th century art. He was much more than a painter, he was a sculptor, printmaker and writer. His work developed from the naturalism of his childhood through to Cubism and Surrealism. He shaped the course of modern and contemporary art down the years. Paul Klee was a Swiss artist known for his work in cubism, expressionism and surrealism. Klee taught art in Germany until 1933 before the National Socialists stated that his work was improper. Klee fled to Switzerland where he died in 1940.

George Braque was a leading 20th Century artist. He played a major role in the development of Cubism. Braque’s art is often compared to that of Pablo Picasso. Their works are very similar but due to Braque’s quiet personality, Picasso outshone him. Henri Matisse was a French artist and leader of the Fauve group (a group of early 20th century modern artists who emphasised painterly qualities and strong colour over realistic values used in Impressionism). He was a master in the use of colour and form to transmit emotional expressionism.

The exhibition is divided into eight sections; 1. Art Dealers and Collectors. 2. Nazi Art Theft in France. 3. What is Provenance Research? 4. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. 5. Raphael Denis. 6. Picasso’s Millieu. 7. Picasso and Paul Klee in the US and 8. African Works. The exhibition focuses on the origin of the works of art and their ownership before 1945.  The museum said, of the exhibition, as you walked in, “The exhibition reveals how the reverse side of a work is examined for clues to its provenance, giving visitors an understanding of the day-to-day work of provenance researchers. Every work that was researched receives a label detailing provenance chains that are also extensively documented and fully referenced in the exhibition catalogue. This special exhibition focuses on the provenance of artworks and their ownership histories prior to 1945. It also provides the occasion for a comprehensive rearrangement of the works, which are presented in new constellations both inside and outside the exhibition rooms”.

The exhibition is presented beautifully to the public. It is clear how the museum is trying to display each piece. They are trying to emphasise how all the artists are connected to each other via cubism and their use of colour. The paintings were displayed on a white background which really made them standout. The rooms in which they were displayed were large, but the space was well used. Each artist had its own section, but it was clear to see the similarities between the four. The lighting in the room wasn’t very bright but that is necessary as bright light can damage paintings. A painting that really stood out to me was Georges Braque’s, ‘Fruit on a Table-cloth with a Fruit Dish (1925)’. The painting commemorates a banquet held in Braque’s honour upon returning from the war. This is similar to Picasso in his use of cubism.

One of the finest pieces of art on display in the exhibition was Pablo Picasso’s, “seated nude drying her feet”. It was stolen during the Nazi era before being returned after the war. It is a piece from Picassos neoclassical set of works. The painting has a nice use of colour and it is clear to see that the toes are missing on the person’s right foot which means that this clearly isn’t the focus of the painting.

To tell the truth, the exhibition was alright. I expected it to be better, however. Some of the paintings weren’t as striking as I thought they would be. It was interesting to find out how each artist inspired the other through cubism. I would also say that it was too spread out and it could definitely have been more compressed which I think would have been more effective.


The exhibition runs until May 19th, 2019.