Archival Labels
The Oil Mill
Pablo Picasso
Horta de Ebro (present-day Horta de Sant Joan), summer 1909
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Paris 1932

This exhibition label was created for Picasso’s first retrospective, held in Paris from June 16 to July 30, 1932, at Galeries Georges Petit (8, rue de Sèze, just off Boulevard de la Madeleine). The catalogue lists 238 works (225 paintings, pastels, and works on paper; 7 sculptures; and 6 illustrated books) that date from Picasso’s arrival in Paris (intermittently starting in 1900) until early May 1932, a month before the exhibition opened.

Originally founded by François Petit in 1846, the Galeries Georges Petit derived its name from François’s son, Georges (1856–1920), who in 1881 assumed responsibility for operations. The gallery presented a number of high-profile exhibitions of prominent nineteenth-century French painters, such as Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier (1884), Alfred Sisley (1897), Claude Monet (1898), and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1912). In 1918-19 just as World War I was underway, it also hosted the four posthumous sales of work by Edgar Degas as well as that artist’s private collection. 

Following Georges Petit’s death in 1920, the gallery was run by the brothers Gaston (1870–1953) and Josse (1870–1941) Bernheim-Jeune in partnership with Etienne Bignou (1891–1950). It functioned almost exclusively as an auction house during the first decade of their leadership. When the economic downturn of the late 1920s created surplus inventory, the trio enlisted the financial support of American businessman and collector Chester Dale (1883–1962). They presented important retrospectives of living artists, including a major Henri Matisse exhibition (June 16–July 25, 1931) that traveled to Kunsthalle Basel and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The following year the Picasso retrospective opened at the Galeries Georges Petit and then traveled to the Kunsthaus Zürich in October 1932.

Picasso’s dealers, Paul Rosenberg (1881–1959) and Georges Wildenstein (1892–1963), joined forces with Galeries Georges Petit to help the artist select the works for the exhibition. A quarter of the artworks presented in Paris were from Picasso’s Cubist period, among them five paintings now in the Leonard A. Lauder Collection: The Oil Mill (1909), Nude in an Armchair (1909), Carafe and Candlestick (1909), The Scallop Shell: “Notre Avenir est dans l’Air” (1912), and Woman in a Chemise in an Armchair (1913–14). Four pictures now in The Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection were also included in the retrospective that summer: Bust of a Man (1908; 1996.403.5), Man with a Hat and a Violin (1912; 1999.363.64), Still Life with Mandolin and Galette (1924; 1999.363.65), and Mandolin, Fruit Bowl, and Plaster Arm (1925; 1999.403.2). Picasso spent a week at Galeries Georges Petit arranging the works in double- and triple-hung displays. The exhibition was a critical success and coincided with the publication of the first volume of Christian Zervos’s major catalogue raisonné of Picasso’s work.

Wilhelm Wartmann, director of the Kunsthaus Zürich, substantially enlarged the display when it traveled to Switzerland in the fall of 1932. The catalogue lists 460 works (225 paintings; 4 sculptures; 98 drawings and watercolors; and 110 etchings, lithographs, and books), of which 85 were for sale. Two additional works from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection were shown in Zürich: Standing Female Nude (winter 1906–7) and Student with a Newspaper (1913–14). Originally scheduled from September 11 to October 30, 1932, the show was extended to November 13 and attracted 33,000 visitors. The Kunsthaus Zürich's presentation was the first museum exhibition devoted exclusively to Picasso’s work. 

The exhibition label reproduced here is adhered to the stretcher of The Oil Mill, which was displayed at the Parisian venue of the 1932 Picasso retrospective as no. 53. It did not travel to Zürich. 

For more information, see:

FitzGerald, Michael. Making Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth-Century Art. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995. 

Fraquelli, Simonetta. “Picasso’s Retrospective at the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris 1932: A Response to Matisse.” In Picasso by Picasso: His First Museum Exhibition,1932, pp. 77–93. Exh. cat. Edited by Tobia Bezzola. Kunsthaus Zürich; 2010–11. Munich: Prestel, 2010. 

Zervos, Christian. Pablo Picasso. 33 vols. Paris: Éditions "Cahiers d’Art," 1932–78.

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