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Sponsored by: Sponsor: Fundación BBVA
Sponsored by: Sponsor: Fundación BBVA

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An encounter with the past through the present

Didaktika is an initiative designed to provide contextual information and activities to complement the exhibitions on view. In conjunction with Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy, this educational area explores various aspects of the social, political, and economic life of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how they may relate to discussions today. Didaktika also includes a reading area for visitors to consult the exhibition catalogue.

Foto 1

Paul Cézanne
Madame Cézanne, ca. 1885–87
Oil on canvas with traces of graphite
55.5 x 46 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.5
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)

Foto 2

Group of friends making selfie
© E+/Getty Images


Portraiture and the selfie

Historically, the possibility of commissioning an artist to draw, paint, or sculpt a portrait has been a privilege of wealthier classes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the genre of portraiture underwent an enormous transformation. Artists began to focus on the everyday, depicting sitters belonging to their intimate circles, including friends or relatives. For example, Paul Cézanne’s Madame Cézanne (ca. 1885–87) is one of many portraits the French artist painted of his wife, Hortense Fiquet. 

Today, over one hundred years later, we still pose constantly for other people or for ourselves. Photography was invented around 1826, and the first mobile phones with inbuilt cameras came on the market in 2000. These devices, and subsequent iterations like the tablet, revolutionized the medium and allow us to photograph ourselves with ease. While some champion the selfie as a contemporary icon of self-expression, others regard it as a reflection of an increasingly superficial society. What is your opinion about this?

Foto 3

Édouard Manet
Before the Mirror (Devant la glace)1876
Oil on canvas
93 x 71.6 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.27
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)

Foto 4

Women smiling
Blend Images/Getty Images


Evolving ideals of beauty

Canons of beauty have changed over time in accordance with the tastes and preferences of different cultures and generations. Ancient Greek art, for instance, promoted an archetype of the human body with specific proportions they considered “ideal.” Édouard Manet’s Before the Mirror (1876), which portrays an intimate scene of a woman observing herself in the mirror, shows the model of female beauty that reigned in Europe in the late 19th century, characterized among other things by an extremely narrow waist, achieved in this case with the help of a corset. The fin de siècle in Paris was a moment of change and transition toward modern life. Manet was among those artists who not only engaged with contemporary fashion but also was daring in his depiction of private space. His model’s state of partial undress and exposed flesh subverts the classical nude. What notions of beauty for women and men exist in the 21st century and who sets those criteria?

Foto 5

Pablo Picasso
Le Moulin de la Galette, Paris, ca. November 1900
Oil on canvas
89.7 x 116.8 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.34
© Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)

Foto 6

San Francisco Pride, 2017
© Meera Fox/Getty Images Entertainment


Sexual diversity and gender identity

In 19th-century France, sexual repression and a dual morality characterized public life. The Parisian cafés and night clubs, like the one depicted in Le Moulin de la Galette, painted by Pablo Picasso in 1900, were the exception where promiscuity and sexual experimentation with partners of the same sex were permitted. Avantgarde artists were drawn to the famous dance hall and its gaudy glamour around this time, and the young Picasso captured the energy of the crowd in his nocturnal scene. Many support sexual diversity today, and the LGBTQIA+ movement promotes the rights of homosexual, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals. Can you think of cities around the world that have Pride celebrations?

Foto 7

Pierre-Auguste Renoir 
Woman with Parakeet (La femme à la perruche)1871
Oil on canvas
92.6 × 65.4 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.68
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)

Foto 8

The (UK) Labour Party commemorates the centenary of women’s suffrage.
© Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News


Women: from muses to creators

The figure in Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Woman with Parakeet (1871) represents bourgeois femininity at the end of the 19th century, yet she is a person who might well feel enclosed in a metaphorical golden cage similar to that of the parrot she holds in her delicate hands. Women in France at the time were to a greater or lesser extent in charge of household duties, and enjoyed few political, economic, or social rights. In the visual arts, they were generally regarded as muses and models (as in Renoir’s painting). Nonetheless some, like Mary Cassat, Eva Gonzalès, and Berthe Morisot, started to make names for themselves as artists in the 19th century and were among those associated with French Impressionism. 

Today there is increasing support for the promotion of women artists in cultural institutions, not to mention the defense of women’s rights more broadly in every sphere of society. Despite advances in terms of gender equality, the wage gap and the glass ceiling still exist in the 21st century, making it hard for women to progress upwards in the labor market. What obstacles still need to be overcome to attain gender equality?

Foto 9

Henri Rousseau
The Football Players (Les joueurs de football)1908
Oil on canvas
100.3 x 80.3 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 60.1583
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)

Foto 10

Teenager playing video games.
© Image Source/Getty Images


Leisure and virtual reality

For The Football Players (1908), Henri Rousseau probably took as his inspiration the annual rugby competition between England and France known as “Le Crunch” and first held in Paris in 1906. The ways in which we relate to one another through sport has changed over the last century. From group leisure, which is depicted in the Rousseau painting with an outdoor activity, we have increasingly embraced domestic and individualistic leisure time in the 21st century. Recent years have seen a spectacular proliferation of digital games, for instance. Cutting-edge technology has turned them into one of the most popular digital platforms, especially for younger generations. Further, the development of virtual reality has led not only to new forms of artistic creation and expression in what is known as “virtual art” (works produced in augmented reality, 3D or 360º videos, that can be accessed instantly through digital platforms), but it has also generated a new type of social interaction: virtual relationships. How far do you think these technologies favor social interaction, or do you think they impair it?

Foto 11

Édouard Vuillard
Place Vintimille, 1909–10
Distemper on brown Kraft paper, mounted on canvas
Two panels, left panel: 200.1 x 70 cm; right: 200.2 x 70 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.74
© Édouard Vuillard, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2018
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)

Foto 12

Miquel Navarro 
Your World, Your City (Tu mundo, tu ciudad), 2003
Overall dimensions variable
Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa


Urban expansion

In the 19th century, the massive exodus of rural workers to cities to find industrial jobs completely changed the urban landscape of Europe. While the aristocracy and bourgeoisie lived in well-built houses on broad, brightly lit streets with sewage systems, the workers were typically crammed together in unhealthy living conditions in networks of narrow streets with no principles of town planning. Place Vintimille, which the artist Édouard Vuillard painted around 1909 to 1910, shows a typical bourgeois neighborhood of the period in Paris. 

Cities still are centers of innovation, progress, change, and the cohabitation of cultures, as well as places of chaos, frenzy, and agglomeration. In recent decades, moreover, megalopolises such as Mexico City, Delhi, Shanghai, Tokyo and Jakarta have developed at dramatic rates, with populations in excess of 20 or 30 million inhabitants. At the end of the 20th century, nearly 45 percent of the world’s population lived in cities, and according to the United Nations, this percentage will rise to nearly 70 percent by the year 2050. What are the environmental impacts of this urban expansion? How does it affect our everyday life?


Foto reflexiones compartidas


Curatorial Vision
Friday, September 21, 2 pm. Megan Fontanella, Exhibition Curator

Key Concepts
Wednesday, october 3, 6:30 pm. Luz Maguregui, Education Coordinator

*Sponsored by Fundación Vizcaína Aguirre

Further Information

Foto Conferencia Thannhauser


Wednesday, september 19, 6:30 pm

Megan Fontanella, curator of the exhibition Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy and Curator of Modern Art and Provenance at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will speak about the works that make up this collection, the activities of the Thannhauser family’s, and their engagement with modern art.

Venue: Auditorium

Further Information

Foto taller musical


Saturdays in November, 6:00 pm

Take part in this two-day workshop, which will bring together late-19th/early-20th-century music and contemporary rhythms.

Venue: Education Room

Further Information


Audio guide and adapted guides

Audio guide and adapted guides

The audio guides, available at the Museum entrance, provide further information on the works in each exhibition.

Ask at the Information desk for audio/video guides for people with cognitive, hearing and/or visual impairments.  

Listen to audio guides


Express Tours

Free quick tours on the artworks exhibited. Check times, topics, and available languages at the Information desk.

Tickets: Free admission. Min. 5 people, max. 20 (first come, first served; no prior reservation). Groups will not be admitted

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