Picasso and the Cubists in the 1913 Armory Show

List written by Picasso of European artists to be included in the 1913 Armory Show

Though Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is considered one of the founders of the Cubist movement–with Georges Braque in Montmartre, Paris–the significance of his work was not fully appreciated in the Armory Show because the organizers focused more on the Puteaux group (Villon, Duchamp, et al.). And, the display of Picasso’s art was fairly disjointed as he had works in different media spread across three different galleries. The works represented both his more recent Cubist creations (see lots 93 and 94 below) and earlier pieces from his Blue Period (see lots 90 and 91 below).

Lot 94 in Swann’s Armory Show at 100 auction is a color collotype and stencil after Picasso, Bouteille de Rhum, based on the proto-Cubist painting of the same title.

The critical response to Picasso’s work was minimal–those who knew he was a figurehead of the vanguard in Paris referenced him as the symbolic leader of the Cubists (i.e. using the line “Picasso and the Cubists”), but did not offer any thoughtful remarks on his works in the show. It was Marcel Duchamp–considered Picasso’s rival in the development of modern art in the early 20th century–and his Nude Descending the Staircase II that overshadowed Picasso.


Lot 90: Picasso’s Les deux Saltimbanques, drypoint, 1905.

Walter Pach, the European-based agent for the AAPS who had a strong hand in selecting the European works, preferred the Cubism of Villon and his ilk, which may also have influenced the quality and reception of the Picasso works in the exhibition. The Armory Show was attacked in Parisian editorials, which declared that the “works of the French artists are scattered and badly hung, serving only as bait for the public… Picasso’s canvases are not grouped together, [so] no idea can be formed of this artist’s talent. The same treatment is given to the works sent by Mlle. Laurencin, Derain, etc.”

The publicity surrounding the Armory Show did not have much of an effect on the artists in Paris, and it seems Picasso was ambivalent about the lack of critical attention, or even the poor presentation of his works–at the time he was more interested in an exhibition of his work opening in Munich. This was also not the first time Picasso’s work was exhibited in the United States. Alfred Stieglitz had organized a show at
Gallery 291 of his Cubist drawings several years prior–it also received little attention from the public.


Lot 91: Picasso’s Au Cirque, drypoint, 1905

The eight works by Picasso in the Armory Show came from multiple lenders, including his Paris dealer Henry Kahnweiler, trailblazing American collector Leo Stein and Stieglitz himself, who lent a drawing and a bronze bust of a woman’s head. In the show’s chronology, Picasso was included in the lineage of the Classicists. One sticking point for critics of Cubism in the Armory Show was that the movement was likely a fleeting fad that would soon pass. But, ten years after the Armory Show Picasso declared, “Many think that Cubism is an art of transition, an experiment which is to bring ulterior results. Those who think that way have not understood it. Cubism is… an art dealing primarily with forms and when a form is realized it is there to live its own life. A mineral substance, having geometric formation, is not made so for transitory purposes, it is to remain what it is and will always have its own form.”