26 May to 24 September 2012

Lieu(x) : Galerie 1 , Grande Nef
Catégorie : Expositions
Tarif : 7€ (tarif unique)
Public : Tout âge

1917 addresses the theme of artistic creation in wartime, on the scale of a single "impossible year "¹ when the world floundered in endless, devastating conflict. It will feature Picasso's monumental work, the overture curtain for the ballet “Parade” which has not been shown in France in over twenty years.

¹Jean-Jacques Becker, 1917 en Europe : l'année impossible (Europe in 1917: the impossible year). Brussels, Éditions Complexe, 1997



This vast multidisciplinary exhibition provides an instant view of every field of creativity during this year of the First World War. It asks what such a narrow, precise context as a single year might mean for creative activity, while avoiding the pitfalls of expectations and assumptions as to the nature of wartime art.

1917 was a year of extreme diversity in artistic production. The exhibition sets out to convey this by illustrating artists' various positions relative to the battlefront and the multiple forms their work took. Alongside established artists who drew inspiration more or less directly from world affairs were the amateur artists who felt the need to respond to the trials of war through creative expression, not least in the trench art – objects made from shells and weapons – an ensemble of which is one of the highlights of the exhibition. Equally important are the war artists who were sent to the front to record events and bring back images of battle, and the many individuals who, as eyewitnesses, left their memory of the conflict for posterity.


The exhibition shows works from public, private, art and military collections, both French and international. Foremost among these are the many works loaned by the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, including Picasso's stage curtain for the ballet Parade. 1917 also gives rise to partnerships with the Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine (Nanterre), the Musée de l’Armée (Paris), the Musée du Service de Santé des Armées (Paris), the Historial de la Grande Guerre (Péronne) and the Imperial War Museums (London).

1917 is the first in a series of events taking place in France to commemorate the centennial of the First World War. It is endorsed by the Mission du Centenaire de la Première Guerre Mondiale 1914-2014.

A symposium  will be held in September 2012.

A programme of films, lectures and performances will run alongside the exhibition.

Claire Garnier, Centre Pompidou-Metz

Laurent Le Bon, Centre Pompidou-Metz





An event in its own right: the exhibition of Picasso's biggest work, the stage curtain for the ballet Parade

Serge Diaghilev, director of the Ballets Russes, commissioned Picasso to paint the stage curtain for Parade. The ballet, with a scenario by Jean Cocteau and music by Erik Satie, is one of the first examples of avant-garde artists from different disciplines working together. As Guillaume Apollinaire wrote in his preface to the programme, the ballet reveals "for the first time this union of painting and dance, costume and theatre which hails the advent of a more complete form of art." First performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 18 May 1917, Parade was hugely controversial and prompted important debate within the Paris avant-garde milieu.


The stage curtain - a huge canvas measuring 10.5 by 16.4 metres (more than 170 square metres) and weighing 45 kilos - is Picasso's largest known painting. It has not been shown in France in more than twenty years. Its mysterious figures and autobiographical nature, reinforced by references to his Rose Period, make it one of the masterpieces in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne. Inspired by the ballet's theme of a travelling circus in search of fame and fortune, Pablo Picasso imagined a curtain depicting poetic scenes, with a Harlequin, performers, a fairy...

The exhibition is devised in two parts. In Galerie 1, it considers artists’ physical and mental involvement with the events of 1917, and highlights the diversity of their work that year. In the Grande Nef, it looks at interactions between destruction, reconstruction and creation, particularly in the theatre and culminating in the presentation of Pablo Picasso’s stage curtain for the ballet Parade. 


"What name can we give this war? - At first we called it the '1914 war', then when 1915 came, we said it was the 'European war.' When the Americans joined it became the 'world war' or the 'universal war' which has a better ring. Some are in favour of calling it the 'great war.' The 'war of the nations' has its supporters too. The 'war of the races' could pass muster (…). But the 'war of the Fronts' would perhaps best convey the nature of this gigantic struggle."

Mercure, « Échos – Revue de la Quinzaine »,
Mercure de France, Paris, 1 November 1917,
tome 124, no 465, p. 187

1917 - Galerie 1 LayoutAs it leads away from the heart of the conflict to regions further afield, or to inner worlds, the first part of the exhibition shows how artists responded differently to the events of 1917. These individual reactions, when taken together, form a map of creative expression in 1917 from which different types of artist emerge: nineteenth-century personalities, avant-gardists, official war artists, artistsoldiers and soldier-artists, people of all nationalities. This section is structured around recurrent themes, motifs or practices; the emergence of artistic communities and avant-garde movements in troubled times; and how certain artists rejected or distanced themselves from events. A large body of documents highlights the vital importance, in every country, of images and the written word.



"War is not only destruction. It is also fertile and has shaped vocations."

Clément-Janin, « Les Estampes et la guerre »,
Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, October-December, 1917.

1917 - Grande Nef Layout

The second part of the exhibition is arranged in a spiral, a recurrent motif in the art of 1917 which conveys as much the physical maelstrom as inner torment. It considers the links between creation, destruction and reconstruction. War scarred the soul as much as bodies and faces, buildings and landscapes. Death and injury were omnipresent, putting protection at the centre of concerns, from camouflage to masks whose multiple avatars—military, mortuary and primitive—run throughout this section. Changing identities and altered appearance also belong to the theatrical world, both in civilian society and on the battle front. They reprise the male/female role reversal engendered by war and social upheaval. Harlequin, another masked character, makes repeated appearances up to the climax of the exhibition: Picasso’s stage curtain for the ballet Parade.

1917 goes beyond these two gallery spaces to encompass a display of large military equipment in the Forum.  This spectacular presentation, of a type not usually found inside a cultural venue such as the Centre Pompidou-Metz, will plunge visitors into one aspect of the year 1917.


The exihibition 1917 is a Centre Pompidou-Metz production.
Centre Pompidou-Metz is the first offshoot of a French cultural institution, Centre Pompidou, developed in collaborationwith a regional authority, the Communauté d’Agglomération Metz Métropole.
Centre Pompidou-Metz is an Établissement Public de Coopération Culturelle (public establishment for cultural cooperation) whose founding members are the French State, Centre Pompidou, the Lorraine Region, Communauté d’Agglomération de Metz Métropole and the City of Metz.
Financial support is provided by Wendel, its founding sponsor.

Logo Metz Métropole   Logo Région Lorraine   Logo Ville de Metz   Logo Centre Pompidou   Logo Ministère de la Culture   Logo Conseil Général de Moselle   Logo Europe

Logo Wendel

The exhibition 1917 is supported by Caisse d’Épargne Lorraine Champagne-Ardenne and Amis du Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Logo CELCA    Logo Les Amis du Centre Pompidou-Metz

The exhibition 1917 is supported by Ministère de la Défense et des Anciens combatants, secretariat general pour l’administration, Direction de la mémoire, du patrimoine et des archives.

Logo SGA   Logo SHD

The exhibition 1917 has been realised in partnership with Bibliothèque de documentation internationale contomporaine (BDIC), Nanterre, Établissement de communication et de production audiovisuelle de la défense (ECPAD) and Musée de l’Armée.

Logo BDIC   Logo Université Paris Ouest   Logo ECPAD  Logo Musée de l'Armée

The exhibition 1917 was devised in collaboration with the Zone de soutien de Metz.

Logo zone de soutien de Metz

The exhibition 1917 inaugurates a cycle of events commemorating the First World War. It is supported by the Mission du centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale 1914-2014.

It was devised in collaboration with Cinémateque Robert-Lynen film library in Paris.

It was devised in cooperation with the following media:

Logo Histoire   Logo LCI   Logo Le Figaro   Logo Le Républicain Lorrain   Logo RTL




The catalogue for 1917 is the sixth to be published by the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Whereas the exhibition addresses its subject thematically, the 600 pages and 1,070 illustrations of the catalogue adopt a complementary approach in three parts, namely a series of essays, a dictionary, and a journal for the year.

In part one, three essays by historians and art historians shed a general light on the year 1917. The second part takes the form of a dictionary of 1917, comprising 225 concise bibliographic and thematic entries on the people, events, places, disciplines, culture, art and ordinary life that "made" the year. This part is illustrated by many of the works and documents in the exhibition.


Part three, a journal for the year, uses the then popular almanac form, with two brief introductions on image literacy.

Each day is represented by a calendar and a timeline of military, diplomatic, political and cultural events, and is illustrated by documents available to the public in 1917, such as posters and magazines.

The catalogue cover and the exhibition's graphic identity overall are inspired by the camouflage of Texas, a cargo ship requisitioned in the First World War.

Claire Garnier
Laurent Le Bon

Camille Aguignier
Claire Bonnevie
Clémentine de La Feronnière

Coordination and Research for the Almanac
Carole Benaiteau, assisted by Ada Ackerman

Layout and Graphic Design
P&J, Laurent Pinon et Aurore Jannin, assisted by Betty Deléon

Laurence Peydro

Ada Ackerman (Russian)
Sonia Goldblum (German)
Marc Phéline (English)
Renaud Temperini (Italian)

Dominique Oukkal

 Catalogue 1917Published by Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, 2012
ISBN : 978-2-35983-019-4
Legal deposit: May 2012
Photoengraving: IGS-CP, L’Isle d’Espagnac
Printed in Luxembourg
RRP: 49,90 €