Contrary to what you may think, the advent of photography didn’t do away with the tradition of painting portraits, even of photorealistic ones.
What did go away in the last century or so was the tradition of royal families and wealthy patrons having their likenesses painted by top-notch artists. This change in Western society may have made painters a bit less comfortable, but it also liberated them to choose their own subjects and better explore the nature of depicting human beings. This shift is at the heart of the Kimbell’s new show, The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso. This collection of paintings and sculptures by the giants of Western art was put together by Madrid’s Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and it includes the likes of Picasso’s handsome pre-Cubist paintings of his wife and a man dressed as Harlequin, Juan Gris’ more traditional Cubist portrait of his wife, self-portraits by Modigliano and Frida Kahlo in their unmistakable styles, a generous sprinkling of German Expressionism (Beckmann, Kokoschka, Klimt, Schiele), and Francis Bacon’s memorable studies in twisted limbs and screaming faces. The exhibit marks the end of Timothy Potts’ reign as the director of the Kimbell Art Museum, one that has been marked by some exceptional shows (the ones on Islamic art and Japanese ukiyo-e come to mind), though he rarely courted controversy in the galleries apart from that early misstep with the green coverings on the museum walls. One hopes this show will make a nice sendoff. The Mirror and the Mask: Portraiture in the Age of Picasso runs Jun 17-Sep 16 at 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. Tickets are $10-14. Call 817-332-8451.