The Essential Cubism, 1907–1920: Braque Picasso and Their Friends, an exhibition curated by the English art historian, critic, and collector Douglas Cooper (1911–1984), along with the young American scholar Gary Tinterow, was on view at the Tate Gallery, London, from April 27–July 31, 1983 (the published closing date was July 10, but it was extended by three weeks). In the catalogue, Cooper and Tinterow define the exhibition’s goal of identifying “true Cubism—the pictorial idiom created by Braque, Picasso, Gris and Léger—in order first of all to determine those essential features (if any) which make of it an independent, recognisable [sic] style, and then to indicate such elements as are peculiar to it.” “True (or essential) Cubism” was Cooper’s way of describing a concept initiated by the dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, namely that these four artists were the “pathfinders” of Cubism and their work should be distinguished from that of other artists working in a Cubist idiom. This is a point of view also followed by Leonard A. Lauder.
Billed as the first survey of Cubism ever held in London, the catalogue lists a total of 233 works and is divided into three sections based on the artists’ involvement with Cubist style: 1) “Four Masters”: Braque (56 works), Gris (36 works), Léger (18 works), and Picasso (86 works); 2) “Two Cubist Sculptors”: Henri Laurens (1885–1954) (13 works) and Jacques Lipchitz (1891–1973) (10 works); and 3) “Associated French Artists”: Robert Delaunay (1885–1941) (2 works), Albert Gleizes (1881–1953) (6 works), Louis Marcoussis (1878–1941) (1 work), Jean Metzinger (1883–1956) (2 works), and Jacques Villon (1875–1963) (3 works). In his review of the exhibition in The Times of London, John Russell Taylor points out that the inclusion of the work of the associated artists was “so that we could see for ourselves how far they fell short.”
Mr. Lauder, who had loaned one work, Picasso’s The Scallop Shell: “Notre Avenir est dans l’Air” (1912), flew to London to see the exhibition. He recalled that, “My jaw dropped when I saw the treasures hung on the walls, many of which came from Cooper’s own collection. I asked myself how one person could have assembled such a wonderful group of paintings.” Since 1983, Mr. Lauder’s collection has grown to include eighteen of the works he saw in London, including seven by Braque: Trees at L’Estaque (1908); Still Life with Metronome (Still Life with Mandola and Metronome) (1909); Still Life with Dice (1911); Violin: “Mozart Kubelick” (1912); Fruit Dish and Glass (1912); Violin and Sheet Music: “Petit Oiseau” (1913); Bottle, Glass, and Pipe (Violette de Parme) (1914); five by Gris: Houses in Paris, Place Ravignan (1911, possibly 1912); Head of a Woman (Portrait of the Artist’s Mother) (1912); The Man at the Café (1914); Flowers (1914); Checkerboard and Playing Cards (1915); one by Léger: Still Life (1913); and five by Picasso: Head of a Man (1908); The Chocolate Pot (1909); Nude in an Armchair (1909); Standing Woman (1912); and Student with a Newspaper (1913–14). Five works from the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection were also included in this exhibition: one by Braque, Still Life with Banderillas (1911; 1999.363.11); one by Gris, Harlequin with a Guitar (1917; 2008.468); and three by Picasso: Standing Nude (1907–8; 67.162); Head of a Woman (1909; 49.70.28); and Still Life with a Bottle of Rum (1911; 1999.363.63).
For more information, see
Cooper, Douglas, and Gary Tinterow. The Essential Cubism, 1907–1920: Braque, Picasso and Their Friends. Exh. cat. London: Tate Gallery, 1983.
Kosinski, Dorothy M. Douglas Cooper und die Meister des Kubismus/Douglas Cooper and the Masters of Cubism. Exh. cat. Kunstmuseum Basel and Tate Gallery, London; 1987–88. Basel: Kunstmuseum Basel, 1987.
Taylor, John Russell. “Galleries: Changing the World’s Sensibilities: The Essential Cubism.” The Times, London, May 3, 1983, p. 10.