6.8.10

V&A TO PRESENT PICASSO'S LE TRAIN BLEU CURTAIN


IT'S SO LARGE THAT IT HAS HAD TO SPEND THE BEST PART OF 80 YEARS IN STORAGE. BUT RECENTLY, PABLO PICASSO'S LARGEST WORK WAS UNROLLED IN ALL ITS AMAZING GLORY AT THE VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM. STRETCHING OVER MORE THAN 34ft (FAMED MURAL GUERNICA IS JUST 11ft BY 26ft), IT'S LITTLE WONDER STAFF WONDERED WHERE TO PUT THE CANVAS, WHICH WAS CREATED FOR RUSSIAN BALLET IMPRESARIO SERGE DIAGHILEV. IT TOOK A TOWER OF SCAFFOLDING, FIVE RIGGERS PULLING IT UP AND TEN MUSEUM STAFF UNROLLING IT DOWN TO HANG THE FRONT CLOTH. A FRONT CLOTH IS A THEATRICAL CREATION, DESIGNED TO HANG JUST BEHIND THE RED VELVET CURTAIN AND TO BE VIEWED BY AN AUDIENCE WHILE MUSICIANS PLAY THE OVERTURE. THIS PARTICULAR PIECE WAS DESIGNED FOR THE BALLETS RUSSES PERFORMANCES OF LE TRAIN BLUE, IN PARIS, IN 1924. PICASSO, A GREAT FRIEND OF INFLUENTIAL ARTISTIC DIRECTOR DIAGHILEV, PAINTED A MUCH SMALLER PAINTING TITLED DEUX FEMME COURANT SUR LA PLAGE, SHOWING TWO ROTUND WOMEN ON THE BEACH, TWO YEARS EARLIER IN 1922. DIAGHILEV LIKED IT AND PICASSO AGREED THE DESIGN COULD BE ENLARGED TO AN ENORMOUS STAGE CANVAS. IT WAS DULY PAINTED IN GOUACHE, FLAT ON THE FLOOR AND SQUARE BY SQUARE, BY THEATER ARTIST PRINCE ALEXANDRE SHERVASHIDZE IN JUST 24 HOURS. IMPRESSED BY THE COPY, WHICH WAS MADE DURING THE YEAR PARIS HOSTED THE OLYMPICS, PICASSO ADDED HIS SIGNATURE AND A DEDICATION. THE ARTWORK WAS UNFURLED FOR PERFORMANCES OF LE TRAIN BLEU OVER TWO SEASONS. IN BETWEEN PERFORMANCES IT WOULD BE FOLDED UP (HENCE THE LINES MARKING THE CANVAS) AND PACKED AWAY IN A TRUNK, A SET DESIGNER PATCHING UP ANY DAMAGED AREAS WITH FRESH PAINT AS REQUIRED. IT EMERGED FROM STORAGE AGAIN IN 1939 FOR AN EXHIBITION, AND THEN REMAINED TUCKED AWAY OUT OF SIGHT UNTIL AN AUCTION IN 1968 WHEN IT WAS ACQUIRED FOR THE NATION BY THE V&A. THE PUBLIC WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 25.SEPTEMBER TO SEE THE STUNNING WORK, WHEN AN EXHIBITION ENTITLED 'DIAGHILEV AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE BALLETS RUSSES 1909-1929' OPEN. THE EXHIBITION WILL ALSO FEATURE COSTUMES WORN BY CHARISMATIC DANCER VASLAV NIJINSKY, WORKS BY HENRI MATTISE, COCO CHANEL'S BATHING COSTUMES FOR LE TRAIN BLEU AND WORKS OF ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS DIAGHILEV KNEW.

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