One of the most precious deliveries ever to arrive in Birmingham was carefully unpacked this week.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts has pulled off a major coup by welcoming a major painting by an artist described as the most important in the last century – Pablo Picasso.

Going on display on Friday, August 29, Woman Sleeping in a Chair will be at the gallery until March 2015.

Painted in 1927, the picture has come from the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan and is believed to be the first major painting by the controversial Cubist to have gone on public exhibition in the city in more than 50 years.

Five Picassos came to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 1956 for an exhibition co-organised by the Museum of Modern Art in Paris entitled ‘Autour du Cubisme’.

The Picasso was given a thorough condition check on arrival, to ascertain exactly what state the picture is in on unpacking after its journey from the Far East, so any noticeable irregularities in the painted surface of the picture on the canvas such as cracking or flaking or even missing paint areas, and any damage to the picture or frame, recent or historical, could be spotted.

Light levels in the University of Birmingham gallery were also checked to meet the exacting standards required by such an important artwork.

Junko Uchiyama, curator of the Japanese gallery, travelled to Birmingham with the painting and was met by Robert Wenley, deputy director of the Barber, to ensure the work of art was properly unwrapped and hung.

Helen Sinclair (conservator) scans Picasso's Woman Sleeping in a Chair on its arrival at the Barber Institute from Japan
Helen Sinclair (conservator) scans Picasso's Woman Sleeping in a Chair on its arrival at the Barber Institute from Japan
 

The gallery is also welcoming works by German artist Paul Klee and German 18th-century painter Johann Zoffany this autumn.

In return some of the Barber’s best-loved works are going out on loan to blockbuster exhibitions in the US, Germany and Japan.

The Picasso, one of the greatest and most popular treasures of the Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan, comes to the Barber on loan in exchange for the Barber’s landmark Whistler painting, Symphony in White No 3.

The semi-abstract Picasso painting, from a key era of the great Cubist’s life, is believed to be a conflated image of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s mistress and muse of the moment, and Olga Khokhlova, his wife.

Also arriving in September will be Johann Zoffany’s intriguing A Life Class at St Martin’s Academy, 1761/2.

This comes from the Royal Academy collection in London in exchange for the Barber’s major Gainsborough, The Harvest Wagon, which is to be exhibited in the exhibition Rubens and his Legacy in Brussels and at the RA.

Pablo Picasso, Woman Sleeping in a Chair: August 30, 2014 – March 8, 2015 (Blue Gallery)

Johann Zoffany, A Life Class at St Martin’s Academy: September 26, 2014 – April 5, 2015 (Beige Gallery)

Paul Klee, Flußbaulandschaft (River-engineering Landscape): Nov 7, 2014 – Feb 1, 2015 (Blue Gallery)

Pictures: Jonathan Hipkiss