Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Toulouse, FRAC Midi-Pyrénées

Picasso and the Exodus

A history of Spanish art in resistance
From 15 march to 25 august 2019
les Abattoirs
Opening on Thursday March 14, 2019 at 6pm
Dora Maar, Picasso sur un escabeau devant "Guernica", dans l’atelier des Grands -Augustin, Paris, en mai-juin 1937, collection musée national Picasso Paris, photogr. NB © Adagp, Paris, 2018 © Succession Picasso, 2018 ; photogr. RMN / Grand Palais (musée national Picasso Paris)

Les Abattoirs, Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse will host a major exhibition of Picasso, on the theme of Picasso and the Exodus, in a new approach to the artist’s historiography that will find an echo in the broader historical research undertaken for the anniversary of La Retirada.

This exhibition will provide an occasion for the public to discover or rediscover, among other works, the exceptional stage curtain by Picasso, La Dépouille du Minotaure en costume d’Arlequin [The Corpse of the Minotaur in Harlequin Costume], created by the artist in 1936 and donated by him to the city of Toulouse in 1965. It is only presented once every two years for conservation purposes.

In late April 1937, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), while working in his Parisian studio Grands-Augustins on a commission for the pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the World’s Fair in Paris, learned of the massacre of a city during the Spanish Civil War. Radically transforming the work’s initial theme, he painted Guernica. Settled in France for several decades for his art, he vowed not to return to Spain until the fall of Francoism: he would never return to his native country. The Spanish War marked for the artist the start of his politically engaged art and his long exile.

Besides Picasso’s work, the exhibition will also broach the financial support that he brought to his compatriots in exile, both artists and anonymous individuals, for instance through his support of the Hôpital Varsovie (now Joseph Ducuing) in Toulouse, or by supporting exiled Spanish artists, who he often sponsored (we can cite, among others Appel.les Fenosa, Oscar Dominguez, Antoni Clavé, Josep Renau, and Remedios Varo). The exhibition will also explore how the artist, an emigrant by choice who became an exile in spite of himself, expresses the historical or popular culture of a country. A contemporary take on the image of Guernica as a work of peace and on contemporary states of exile will complete this project.

This exhibition, initiated within the framework of the Picasso Méditerranée programme launched by the Musée National Picasso de Paris, devised as an extension of the Guernica exhibition by the same museum (spring-summer 2018) in association with the scientific teams of both institutions, will explore how this historical and personal upheaval affected the artist’s work. Within the framework of an overall historical project to retrace the geography of the exiled Spanish art scene, a dedicated collection area will be set up at Les Abattoirs for the project for several months prior to the exhibition, featuring an artwork commissioned from an artist

Picasso, Toulouse, and les Abattoirs

There is an important connection between Picasso and Toulouse. In 1965, he gave the monumental work La dépouille du Minotaure en costume d'Arlequin [The Corpse of the Minotaur in Harlequin Costume] to the city. It was shown at the Musée des Augustins the same year, in an exhibition devoted to Picasso’s ties to the theatre.

If Pablo Picasso was in favour of this exhibition at the Musée des Augustins and donated its stage curtain, it is because he was aware of the presence of a Spanish diaspora in Toulouse.

He was also one of the financiers of the Hôpital de Varsovie de Toulouse, the hospital of Spanish republicans. Conscious of the value of this exceptional gift, the city hall of Toulouse designed Les Abattoirs around this major work. One of the lower spaces of the establishment was in fact created and its dimensions adapted especially to house this major work: the “Picasso room”.

Armed with this history, the theme of exile assumes its full meaning in this exhibition dedicated to Pablo Picasso. From March to August 2019, Les Abattoirs, Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse will present emblematic works by the artist, perfectly illustrating the history of the city of Toulouse and the Occitanie region.

La Retirada

The Republican exodus finds its roots in a long line of migrations between France and Spain, which began in the 12th century. La Retirada, the migratory phase of the republican exile began in 1939 and is the most memorable of these. Nearly 500 000 Spaniards fled the Spanish Civil War that began in 1936 and the pro-Franco regime, travelling to France over a two-week period. For all of those who had not given up the struggle against fascism, the proximity with Spain made Toulouse the preferred fallback base. Even though part of this population was to return to Spain after Franco’s victory was consummated, several hundreds of thousands of Spaniards settled definitively in France, and especially in Occitanie. The Spanish immigration linked to the Republican exile, brought with it a significant cultural contribution, making a profound historical, artistic, and political impact on the city of Toulouse. The future of the two trans-Pyrenean countries was thus modified. Toulouse, capital of the exodus, still bears its trace, as does the whole Occitanie region, as the site of shelter and migrant camps.

This project Picasso and the Exodus will be extended by complementary contemporary art exhibitions in the region and in Toulouse, which will follow the geography of the historical exile and contemporary migrations.


As part of PICASSO - MÉDITERRANÉE 2017 / 2019 et RETIRADA 2019.
An exhibition of les Abattoirs, Musée - Frac Occitanie Toulouse with the support and collaboration of Musée national Picasso-Paris.


With the support of Mazars too.