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Women through men’s eyes in Munich's Pinakothek der Moderne

Picasso, Beckmann, De Kooning and the female form

The Pinakothek der Moderne, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, explores the role of women in the art of three major 20th-century male artists: Max Beckmann, Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning. “The value of these artists’ works is rocketing, making this the most expensive loan the Pinakothek has ever [undertaken],” says the show’s curator, Carla Schulz-Hoffmann. Lending institutions include New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Tate Britain, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

Visitors can also expect to see works from the Pinakothek’s large Beckmann collection, such as Frau mit Mandoline in Gelb und Rot (woman with mandolin in yellow and red), 1950 and Liegender Akt (reclining nude), 1929. “Beckmann sought freedom from art’s materialism and because he thought women embraced this freedom, he painted them as unshaken and autonomous,” says Schulz-Hoffmann. De Kooning’s typically exaggerated, manic shapes in Woman V, 1952-53 and The Visit, 1966-67, demonstrate that “he saw no difference between men and women, and sometimes you cannot even decipher the forms”.

Picasso’s Femme Pleurante (weeping woman), 1937, and his last painting, L’Étreinte (the embrace), 1972—on loan from the Gagosian gallery—are due to go on display to represent Picasso’s depictions of women that, although sensual and erotic, are anxiously distorted and often mirror the turbulent political times in which they were painted. “The women in Picasso’s life were icons for what he wanted from his art. All his positive feelings towards women are reflected in his work.”

According to Schulz-Hoffmann, the strength of the paintings lies with their blatant lack of conventional beauty: “Some of the images are even more extreme than modern-day pornography.” Picasso’s provocative La Pisseuse, 1965, for example, depicts a urinating woman “who doesn’t care she is being watched—she acts just like a man.”

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Women through men’s eyes'