Art Diary


7 October 2022

Pablo Picasso and Gabrielle Chanel were introduced by their mutual friend, the poet and artist Jean Cocteau, in the spring of 1917. They went on to work together on two significant projects – Cocteau’s play Antigone (1922) and Serge Diaghilev’s Le Train Bleu (1924) for his Ballet russes,for both of which sets were designed by Picasso and costumes by Coco Chanel. But this show at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid (11 October–15 January 2023) suggests that Picasso and Chanel’s creative affinities went far deeper. Focusing on the period from 1915–25, the display explores the influence of Picasso’s Cubism on Chanel’s designs; Picasso’s Woman’s Head (1909­–10) is paired with a Chanel dress of around 1926 with straight, angular lines and a dim palette reminiscent of Picasso’s Cubist works. The show also explores the personal dynamics at play; Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova, was close friends with Chanel, and frequently sat for portraits for her husband wearing clothes designed by her friend. The delicate sketch Olga with Garland of Flowers (1920), on show here, captures the ballerina in a loose-fitting dress, reminiscent of a comfortable day dress created by Chanel of around 1925–26). Find out more on the Museo Thyssen’s website.

Preview below | View Apollo’s Art Diary here 

Lace evening dress, 1929–30, Gabrielle Chanel. © CHANEL

Woman by the Sea (1922), Pablo Picasso. Minneapolis Institute of Art Photo: © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2022

Women’s Head (Fernande) (1909–10), Pablo Picasso. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid. Photo: © MNCARS; © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 20200

Red Cotton Coat, c. 1929, Gabrielle Chanel. Photo: © CHANEL

Untitled (Harlequin and Pulcinella)

Untitled (Harlequin and Pulcinella) (detail; 1924), Pablo Picasso. Fundación MAPFRE Photo: © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP Madrid, 2022