The Musée National Picasso Paris has undertaken the conservation of the monumental masterpiece, ‘Femmes à Leur Toilette’. Funding for the restoration has been provided through a 2017 grant from Bank of America’s global Art Conservation Project, which helps institutions around the world conserve artworks of international or national significance.
‘Femmes à Leur Toilette’ is a collage created by Pablo Picasso in Paris during the winter of 1937-1938. One of the artist’s rare monumental pieces, it depicts three women styling their hair. The three women are Picasso’s lovers: Olga Khoklova, Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar. This is one of the Picasso Museum’s largest-scale conservation projects since the museum’s renovation and re-opening in 2014.
The restoration of ‘Femmes à Leur Toilette’ was one of 21 global projects in six countries that received Art Conservation Project funding from the bank last year. Since the initiative’s launch in 2010, Bank of America has provided grants for more than 150 projects in 30 countries on six continents to conserve paintings, sculptures and archaeological pieces that are critically important to cultural heritage and the history of art.
Previous grant funding beneficiaries in France include the Louvre for ‘The Winged Victory of Samothrace’ and the Musée d’Orsay for Gustave Courbet’s monumental masterpiece, ‘The Artist’s Studio’.
Stephane Courbon, head of Investment Banking for France at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said: “We are honoured to support the Picasso Museum in conserving a very special and important piece of its collection so the public can continue to enjoy it for many years to come. This project is the latest in a long series of art and culture initiatives we have undertaken in France over the past 10 years to illustrate our long-term commitment to this country and its cultural heritage.”
‘Femmes à Leur Toilette’ has never been restored before on such a large scale, and its fragile condition required extensive conservation treatment. The work consists of pieces of wallpaper, as well as cut-out and pasted vellum paper, on beige paper mounted on the canvas. The beige paper was visible at the edges and in an advanced state of oxidisation. The front had warping, with folds and deformation in the lower section, and a major crease in the lower left corner. The canvas was loose and leaned on the bars of the frame, causing stress and breaks in the paper backing. These issues could lead to further complications in the long term, making the need for conservation immediate.
Restoration of the painting took around six months. It began in February 2018 and was completed in July. It is a particularly complex project due to the work’s monumental size and the variety of materials used in its composition. ‘Femmes à Leur Toilette’ being one of the museum’s most important masterpieces, the restoration process took place outside public view in a confidential location.
The restored painting will be displayed as part of the Picasso Museum’s ‘Masterpieces’ exhibition, running from 4 September 2018 to 13 January 2019.
The museum’s collection was made possible by two donations to France by the heirs of Pablo Picasso in 1979 and Jacqueline Picasso in 1990. The collection includes a number of 20th-century masterpieces and represents all of Picasso’s period styles. Nearly all the artist’s sculpted works have been brought together, as well as drawings and engravings. In all, the collection consists of more than 5,000 works, and includes pieces from the artist’s private collection and archives.
For a complete list of past conservation grant recipients, please visit the Art Conservation Project website.
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Benjamin Gandouin, Burson-Marsteller i&e
Phone: +33 (0)1 56 03 13 84
Leslie Lechevallier, Musée National Picasso
Phone: +33 (0)1 42 71 25 28