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Art Notes: Hood Series Shows the Genius, and Ego, of Picasso 

  • Pablo Picasso, "Faun Unveiling a Sleeping Woman (Faune devoilant une femme)," from the<br/>Vollard Suite, June 12, 1936. (Courtesy Hood Museum of Art)

    Pablo Picasso, "Faun Unveiling a Sleeping Woman (Faune devoilant une femme)," from the
    Vollard Suite, June 12, 1936. (Courtesy Hood Museum of Art)

  • Pablo Picasso, "Blind Minotaur Guided by a Young Girl through the Night (Minotaure aveugle<br/>guide par une fillette dans la nuit)," from the Vollard Suite, November 1934. (Courtesy Hood Museum of Art)

    Pablo Picasso, "Blind Minotaur Guided by a Young Girl through the Night (Minotaure aveugle
    guide par une fillette dans la nuit)," from the Vollard Suite, November 1934. (Courtesy Hood Museum of Art)

  • Pablo Picasso, "Faun Unveiling a Sleeping Woman (Faune devoilant une femme)," from the<br/>Vollard Suite, June 12, 1936. (Courtesy Hood Museum of Art)
  • Pablo Picasso, "Blind Minotaur Guided by a Young Girl through the Night (Minotaure aveugle<br/>guide par une fillette dans la nuit)," from the Vollard Suite, November 1934. (Courtesy Hood Museum of Art)

In the popular imagination, artists are often perfectionists, obsessive characters who fret and toil until a painting or sculpture is luminous and transparently meaningful.

The reality is often quite different. Making art is messy, the product of trial and error and constant revision. It takes an uncommon confidence, even cockiness or arrogance, to put that process on display.

The Vollard Suite, a set of 100 prints made by Pablo Picasso is a prime example — maybe the prime example in art history. When he started work on the series in 1930, Picasso was something of a novice printmaker, and part of his aim was to show how quickly he could rise to greatness in a new medium.

“There’s something about the Vollard Suite that he wants you to see the process,” said Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum of Art, which is one of only three American museums that possess a complete set of the Vollard Suite prints. The entire suite, along with prints by Rembrandt and Goya that inspired Picasso, is on view through Dec. 20. An opening party is planned for Oct. 2, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The suite came about after art dealer Ambroise Vollard approached Picasso, asking him if he had a dream project. They settled on the idea of making a boxed series of 100 prints. Vollard put Picasso in touch with master printers to help him realize his work.

The prints at the start are not auspicious. Some of the first etchings are oddly clumsy. “Another artist, a lesser artist, might have said, ‘These are awfully tentative, I’m going to leave this out,’ ” Taylor said.

Before long, Picasso was hitting his stride. The prints in the suite are a sort of visual diary, Taylor said, recording not only the artist’s progress as a printmaker but aspects of his life. Even as Picasso intends to surpass Rembrandt as a printmaker, he openly mocks his predecessor, depicting him as a ridiculous figure. He was also inspired by Goya’s “Bulls in Bordeax” prints, which depict the savagery of bullfighting.

Picasso also focused on his own life. At the time, he was living with his mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, on an estate in northern France that he’d converted to a sculpture studio, and many of his prints feature a sculpture, Walter as a model and an artist.

In much of this work, Picasso’s titanic ego is both a motivating force and an obstacle for a viewer to surmount. The mocking of Rembrandt is embarrassingly petty and some of the images that include Walter and a stand-in for Picasso are discolored by sexual violence.

The Vollard Suite ends with a work that ultimately wasn’t included in the set, kept out by Vollard, who wanted the prints to be of a relatively uniform size. Minotauromachy, from 1935, is a spectacular work, one which Taylor called perhaps the greatest print of the 20th century. It is as richly detailed and cross-hatched as Rembrandt’s etchings, and possesses all the weight of its moment, both personal and political. The Philadelphia Museum of Art loaned a print to the Hood for the Vollard Suite show.

The great oddity of the Vollard Suite is that it was never quite finished. Vollard died in a car accident in 1939, just as he and Picasso were searching for a writer to produce an essay to accompany the prints. The plates were broken up among Vollard’s children, but to produce more prints requires the permission of Picasso’s estate.

Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art hosts “The Vollard Suite” and “Cubism and Its Legacy,” which features work by artists who developed cubism and others who experimented with the idea, including an excellent selection of American work, through Dec. 20. Also at the Hood: “Shadowplay: Transgressive Photography from the Hood Musem of Art,” an exhibition organized by Dartmouth studio art professors Virginia Beahan and Brian Miller, and “Evolving Perspectives: Highlights from the African Art Collection at the Hood Museum of Art.”

∎ “Points of View: Seven Portrait Artists” is on view in Randolph’s Chandler Gallery. The show traces the development of seven Central Vermont artists who work each week from the same model. Agathe McQueston, Lark Upson, Sande French-Stockwell, Judith Beckett, Liesi Hebert, Marcia Hammond and Joan Feierabend have been meeting weekly in Feierabend’s Tunbridge studio to share the expense of paying a model. Through Nov. 10.

Of Note

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site hosts its annual “Sculptural Visions” day on Saturday. Admission to the park is free and artists will be on hand to demonstrate sculptural techniques. At 1 and 3 p.m. two sculptures will be cast in bronze using the “lost wax” casting method, the same one Augustus Saint-Gaudens used to cast some of his monumental works. The site has also held over through the fall its exhibition dedicated to the Col. Robert Gould Shaw Memorial. The exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War hero’s death in combat.

∎ AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon starts a free film series next Thursday with a screening of Herb & Dorothy, a documentary about working class art collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel. The film series, titled “Focus on Film — As Art, On Art,” features eight films and runs through October. Hood Museum of Art Director Michael Taylor will be on hand to introduce both Herb & Dorothy, and a sequel, Herb & Dorothy 50X50, which screens on Sunday, Oct. 20.

In addition, the series includes two short documentaries about Lebanon landmarks. The first, Hand of Brick: Densmore Brick Company — A Look Back, by Stefan van Norden, screens Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. The Densmore Brick Factory, which occupied a plot of land near the old Hanover Street, not far from Lebanon High School, turned out bricks for more than 170 years, providing them for buildings at Dartmouth College and many other landmarks in the Twin States.

The second is Connecting the Threads — Overalls to Art: The H.W. Carter and Sons Factory, a 37-minute film that traces the history of the H.W. Carter clothing factory and its transition into a home for AVA Gallery. That screening is planned for Oct. 27 at 5 p.m., and will be followed by a reception and conversation with AVA board members about the organization’s plans for the future.

∎ Artist and psychologist Joe Saginor will give a talk titled “How I Discovered the Unconscious in Art” on Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden. Saginor, a Cornish resident, has been painting since 1992 and was on the Dartmouth Medical School faculty from 1980 to 1998. A buffet supper will follow his talk. Tickets are $45 per person, and reservations are required by Oct. 9. Call 603-469-3444 or email info@aidronduckworthmuseum.org.

∎ Newport’s Library Arts Center hosts an exhibition and silent auction of a large collection of work by the late New London artist Carl M. Cochran, donated by the artist’s family. The exhibition continues through a reception tomorrow evening, 5 to 7, where attendees can make final auction bids. The auction includes hundreds of works, ranging from large-scale sculptures and framed paintings to unframed sketches. Proceeds from the auction will be split between the Library Arts Center and the adjoining Richards Free Library. A full catalog is available for viewing at www.libraryartscenter.org/cochran.

∎ The Main Street Museum in White River Junction is seeking submissions for “Written in Stone: Voices of the GLBTQ Community, an exhibition “celebrating queer voices near and far” that will open Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day. The submission deadline is Monday. The show will be “lightly juried,” and submissions may be brought to the museum Thursday through Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. Digital photographs of submissions too large or fragile to transport for consideration can be sent to Molly O’Hara, who is organizing the project, at ohara.molly.e@gmail.com.

∎ The Utility Club of Lyme and Long River Studios are holding the annual Fine Art, Fine Food fundraiser on Saturday evening. The event features a silent art auction with wine and hors d’oeuvres, with the proceeds going toward scholarships and local charities. Tickets are $35 in advance at Lyme Country Store or at the door. Call 603-795-2904 with questions.

Openings and Receptions

Ledyard Gallery in Hanover’s Howe Library opens a show of photographs of library patrons with their favorite books on Saturday. The photographs were taken by Vershire photographer John Douglas. The “My Favorite Book” project was funded by The Sunup Foundation in memory of long-time Howe volunteer Joy Lange Boardman.

∎ The Woodstock Gallery shows recent 12-inch-by-12-inch acrylic paintings by Irma Cerese through Oct. 11.

Last Chance

“Watercolor Stories,” paintings by members of the local chapter of the Vermont Watercolor Society, is on view at West Lebanon’s Kilton Public Library through Saturday.

At AVA Gallery and Art Center: “Chisel, Brush and Pen,” an exhibition of work by Winkie Kelsey, is on view through in the stone carving studio through Sunday. Proceeds from the show benefit AVA.

Ongoing

Colby-Sawyer College in New London shows recent work by the college’s fine arts faculty in the school’s Marian Graves Mugar Art Gallery. Artists in the show include Loretta S.W. Barnett, Lucy Covello-Mink, David Ernster, Nicholas Gaffney, Douglas Harp, Jon Keenan, Mary Mead, Julie Puttgen, Hilary Walrod and Bert Yarborough.

∎ “From the Mountains to the Sea: Plants, Trees, and Shrubs of New England,” the first traveling exhibition of The New England Society of Botanical Artists, is on view at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich. The show features portraits of more than 60 plants and is designed to promote public appreciation of botanical art and the diversity and beauty of plants in our own backyards.

∎ The Jaffe-Friede Gallery in Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center hosts “Attention,” a series of five print projects by the Philadelpha artist Daniel Heyman, on Tuesday. Heyman, a 1985 Dartmouth graduate, has focused his attention on the victims of abuse in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison during the American occupation.

∎ “Four Artists, Four Decades: Mayor, Keenan, Randall, West” at AVA Gallery in Lebanon comprises prints by Elizabeth Mayor, abstract paintings by Colleen Randall, ceramics by Jon Keenan and drawings by the late Clifford West. Through Oct. 4.

Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden exhibits mixed media work by Alton, N.H., artist Amparo Carvajal-Hufschmid. Also at the museum: “Interiority,” large works on canvas from 1979-1981 by Aidron Duckworth and an outdoor exhibition of sculpture by Fitzhugh Karol, an Orford native now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., which will remain on view into the fall.

∎ BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., exhibits “Folk Vision: Folk Art from New England and Beyond.”

∎ Zollikofer Gallery, in White River Junction’s Hotel Coolidge, hosts “Ordinary Beauty,” photographs by Carla Kimball. A reception is planned for Nov. 1, 5 to 7 p.m.

∎ “Field of the Stars: A Pilgrim Life on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela,” an exhibition that documents the recent walks by Kimball Union Academy students and staff and Upper Valley residents who have walked the pilgrimage route across northern Spain, is on view in KUA’s Taylor Gallery.

∎ Fall art shows at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center include mixed media from Long River Studios in Lyme; colored pencil drawings by Corrina Thurston; pen and ink and watercolors by Lone Mountain Artists; photographs by C.E. Morse; and pen and inks and water colors by Carole-Anne Centre.

∎ “Inuverse,” sculptures by Brooklyn, N.Y., artist David Shaw, is on view at The Picture Gallery at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish.

∎ “Landscape Reveries,” acrylic paintings that explore the elements of earth, air, fire and especially water, by Georgina Forbes, is on view in Norwich Public Library.

Springfield, Vt., native Jamie Townsend is the featured artist at Sculpturefest, the annual exhibition at the Woodstock home of Charlet and Peter Davenport and the nearby King Farm. Sculpturefest adds a third venue this year with a small exhibition of sculpture at the Woodstock History Center. Directions to the Sculpturefest sites are available at www.sculpturefest.org.

∎ Tunbridge Library hosts an exhibition of photographs by Tunbridge native Emily Ferro.

∎ Giovanna Lepore shows “New Small Works,” recent oil and watercolor paintings at Galleria Giovanna Fine Art in Canaan. Sales benefit the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The gallery is located at 313 River Road, Canaan. For more info visit giovannalepore.com.

∎ Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction shows recent paintings, sculpture and woodware by Ria Blaas, and jewelry and work in bronze by gallery owner Stacy Hopkins.

Art Notes appears in the “Valley News” on Thursday. Send email to artnotes@vnews.com.