Picasso’s “Landscape of Mougins II” (photo courtesy of Pinakothek Der Moderne, Munich, 13718, image © Blauel Gnamm   Artotek © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy American Federation of Arts

“Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds” at Cincinnati Art Museum

This exhibition shows how the legendary artist’s body of work included pieces that captured the world around him.

Triangular tree trunks topped with round bursts of green stand in front of the stark shapes of buildings. The oil painting of a Parisian park, “The Vert-Galant” by Pablo Picasso, has the unmistakable sharp angles of his works of cubist art. 

“It’s a wonderful composition with the geometries and the colors working so exquisitely together,” says Peter Jonathan Bell, curator at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where the exhibition “Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds” is on display June 23 through Oct. 15. Originally conceived by Picasso scholar Laurence Madeline and organized by the American Federation of Arts, the touring exhibition features more than 40 paintings.

While Picasso may be more well known for his portraiture and still life work, landscapes held an important place in his life and art throughout his career. This is the first exhibition to dive deep into how the physical landscape around Picasso played into his art.

“The Vert-Galant,” for example, was painted during a period when the artist was stuck in occupied Paris during World War ll. He wandered the city, painting the things around him. Picasso experimented with a wide range of subjects and styles in his landscapes, which depict his travels around the world. Other pieces show the spot where an abstract coastal cafe meets the sea (“Cafe in Royan”), a grove of trees painted with softer brushstrokes that offers a contrast to many of his works (“Grove”) and a cubist hallmark, “The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro,” depicting a Catalonian hill town.

“With the cubist paintings, when he’s working through this totally revolutionary style, he uses the landscape like building blocks to construct these very architectonic views of mountains or urban cityscapes,” says Bell.

The overall effect of the exhibition is of a tour through a lesser known but crucial aspect of an artist we think we already know.

“When you look at these works throughout his career,” Bell says, “you get a sense of how important looking at and painting the landscapes and cityscapes around him was and how much that played into all the other landmark things he was doing with his art.”

953 Eden Park Dr., Cincinnati 45202, 513/721-2787, cincinnatiartmuseum.org