María Blanchard Cubist painting acquired by Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts announced on April 12, 2023, the acquisition of a significant work by cubist artist María Blanchard. The Saxophonist (c.1919) exemplifies the Spanish-born artist’s distinct style, embodying the influence she had on shaping the cubist movement, a legacy largely overlooked in favor of her male counterparts.

“Against the backdrop of Detroit, a city with a rich history of music, it is fitting that The Saxophonist has found a home at the DIA,” Jill Shaw, Head of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Rebecca A. Boylan and Thomas W. Sidlik Curator of European Art, 1850-1970, at the DIA, said. “While Blanchard’s contribution to cubism was profound, recognition of her work and impact has long been overshadowed. We are thrilled to add this work to our permanent collection.”

Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that was introduced around 1907-1908 by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and disrupted Western conventions of artistic perspective and representation. María Blanchard’s unique style of cubism features striking colors and bold formal experimentation.

Whereas many cubists utilized a reduced color palette of neutral browns, blacks and earthy tones in order to amplify the fragmented geometric shapes in their compositions, María Blanchard infused her work with intense vibrant colors. In addition, she tested the limits of representation by pushing her work to the brink of abstraction. 

Between 1916 and 1919 – the period of Blanchard’s greatest experimentation – she made approximately 75 works, the majority of which were still lifes. Of the approximately 15 figure paintings she made during this period, around 10 presented musicians. The Saxophonist is unique in that it distinctly evokes a connection to the United States through jazz music, which Europeans first heard during World War I, largely thanks to Black jazz musicians.

In The Saxophonist – which oozes the energy of jazz – the composition, including the musician’s body and instrument, is broken into flat, fragmented planes of rich and colorful blends of yellow, green, blue and maroon. The stark juxtaposition of these saturated tones, adjacent to areas of bright white, adds a heightened sense of dynamism and movement. A construction of colored shapes, the composition is kaleidoscope-like, rendering light as reflected off multiple opposing angles simultaneously. The placement of the large white plane in the composition’s center guides the eye to the scene’s most important component: the saxophone itself.

About the Artist

Born in Santander, Spain, and trained in Madrid, María Blanchard (1881-1932) settled in Paris in 1916 and joined the cubist movement. She was a contemporary of Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Juan Gris and other artists in Paris. For a time, she shared a studio with Rivera.

The acquisition of Blanchard’s The Saxophonist follows the DIA’s recent acquisitions of four major modern works by European women artists: Rita Kernn-Larsen’s And Life Anew (1940), Alice Rahon’s Androgyne (1946) and Painting for a Little Ghost Who Couldn’t Learn to Read (1947), and Remedios Varo’s Caja (Box) de Jean Nicolle (1948). Like Blanchard, these important artists are only recently garnering the attention they deserve.

Museum Hours and Admission 

9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesdays – Thursdays; 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed on Mondays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne County residents and DIA members. For all others, $14 for adults, $9 for seniors ages 62+, $8 for college students, $6 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971. 

About the DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 65,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century.

From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera’s world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), to the first museum in the United States to have a permanent collection of galleries and a curatorial department devoted to African American art, the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range and depth.

The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art individually and with each other. 

Follow the DIA on Facebook YouTube Twitter Instagram

No Comments Yet.