The University Record, January 10, 1994

Museum of Art receives gift of four works by Picasso

The Museum of Art recently received the largest single gift in its history: four paintings by Pablo Picasso and one painting by Picasso’s Spanish contemporary, Juan Gris.

Given by the Carey Walker Foundation of Port Huron, the paintings join a range of Picasso prints and drawings in the Museum’s permanent collection.

The Museum will hold a special reception formally introducing the works into the collection in the coming months.

Among the Picasso paintings are three that date from the 1930s: “Woman with a Mandolin” (1932), “Two Girls Reading” (1934) and “Bullfight” (August 1934). The fourth is a 1949 portrait of the artist’s mistress Francoise Gilot, titled “Portrait of Francoise.”

The Juan Gris painting, “Seated Harlequin” (1923), is a masterwork from the latter part of Gris’s career.

Until recently the five paintings had been part of a traveling exhibition of 10 paintings by Picasso and one by Gris. Assembled by American physician Herschel Carey Walker over a period of some 40 years, the 11 paintings in the exhibition were shown at the Wads-worth Atheneum (Hartford, Conn.), the Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.), and the Museum of Art. The Walker Foundation has given three of the remaining paintings in the exhibition to the Phillips Collection, two to the Wads-worth Atheneum, and one to the Smith College Museum of Art.

“The Museum is grateful to the Carey Walker Foundation for this princely gift,” says Museum of Art Director William Hennessey. “Any museum would be proud to display these wonderful paintings, but they are of special significance to us here at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The Carey Walker Collection will form a keystone in our efforts to inspire and educate both our University and community audiences,” Hennessey says.

“In future years, we expect the works to be the focus of a continuing series of educational programs, academic coursework and student research. By selecting the Museum for this gift, the Carey Walker Foundation has earned the gratitude of all the people of Michigan.”

During the initial exhibition of the Carey Walker Collection in Ann Arbor (January 1992–October 1993), the Museum presented a variety of interpretive programs designed to explore “not only Picasso’s art in and of itself, but his central place in the art and culture of the 20th century,” says Hennessey, who adds that the Walker Foundation’s decision to give the five paintings to the Museum was in part crystallized by the Museum’s creative and educational use of the collection during its Ann Arbor exhibition.

The four Picassos are unusually appealing works, Hennessey says. “Woman with a Mandolin” and “Two Girls Reading” show Picasso’s then-companion Marie-Therese Walter, and “Portrait of Francoise” is a “bold likeness” of the artist’s long-time mistress Francoise Gilot.

“Bullfight,” a brilliantly-colored depiction of an encounter between a lanced bull and gored horse, is a painting of great passion and fury, which in its tone anticipates works like “Guernica,” Hennessey says.

“Bullfight” is currently on loan to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain. “Seated Harlequin” has also recently been on view throughout Europe in a retrospective of Gris’s work organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

A world traveler and connoisseur who knew Picasso, Walker (1890–1975) began collecting art in 1924 and continued to do so for the next four decades. In 1963 he began to consider the future of his collection, and over the next decade assembled the group of 10 paintings by Picasso and one by Gris—a representative sampling spanning five decades—to be used as a study collection.