Now on display at the New-York Historical Society is a newly acquired and conserved Picasso in the exhibition Picasso's "Le Tricorne." It is the first work by Picasso, and one with great wall power and a New York history, to enter New-York Historical's collection.
Pablo Picasso painted the stage curtain for the two-act ballet The Three-Cornered Hat (El sombrero de tres picos or Le tricorne). The ballet and curtain were commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev for his avant-garde, Paris-based Ballets Russes, the most influential ballet company of the twentieth-century. The ballet was choreographed by Léonide Massine with music by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla. It premiered on July 22, 1919, at the Alhambra Theatre in London with sets, costume designs, and the monumental stage curtain created by Picasso. Picasso biographer John Richardson once called “Le Tricorne” the artist’s “supreme theatrical achievement.” The production, which was conceived by Diaghilev and Massine during a trip to Spain, was enhanced by its many Spanish collaborators, including Picasso who also designed the costumes and set for the ballet.
The exhibition positions Picasso’s curtain in a dialogue with other objects from the New-York Historical Society collection, including paintings from the European tradition that provide background to the artist‘s work―paintings by Phillipe de Champaigne and Jean-Léon Gérôme, together with tapestries and paintings by El Greco and Francesco Goya on loan from The Hispanic Society of America. Also included are paintings that represent the traditions against which Picasso rebelled―works by William Adolphe Bouguereau and Ricardo de Madrazo y Garreta. Works by contemporary American artists―Childe Hassam, Malvina Hoffman, Elie Nadelman, and Maurice Prendergast―and twenty-one of Picasso’s pochoir designs for the ballet’s sets and costumes illuminate the curtain and the video of a performance of the ballet.
Watch the installation of Picasso’s legendary stage curtain for Le Tricorne ballet at the New-York Historical Society.