Must see: Picasso and Paper

When I lived in London I was a friend of The Royal Academy meaning I could access the museum whenever it was open, along with enjoying a huge range of benefits. I made a point of seeing all its exhibitions, even those which might not have held much appeal. I could see the exhibitions as many times as I wanted and it would often take me a couple of visits to see all the more popular exhibits.

All clouds have silver linings! It’s most unlikely that I would’ve managed a trip to London to see this exhibition at The Royal Academy but I don’t have to because, while the museum is closed, thanks to you know what , the exhibition can be viewed on line here

If you live in the south of France, the influence of Pablo Picasso is hard to ignore. There’s the museum in Antibes, the first of many dedicated to the artist and while it offers only a snapshot of his work, it’s a glimpse of a summer holiday. This was Picasso at his happiest, and as he put it himself:

If you want to see the Picassos of Antibes, you must see them in Antibes.

Picasso also lived in nearby Vallauris, where he learnt the art of decorative ceramics. In 1952, he painted his famous mural on war and peace to decorate the chapel there.

I’ve also visited the Photography Museum in the Old Town of Mougins, founded in 1986, dedicated to the works of photographer André Villers (1930 – 2016). A personal friend of Picasso, Villers portrayed – along with many celebrated artists of 20th century – the last twelve years of Picasso’s life in a number of famous black-and-white pictures.

And, as if there weren’t already enough museums (and exhibitions) dedicated to the life and works of Pablo Picasso, there’s a new one opening in Aix-en-Provence and it’s slated to have the largest collection of his works in the world, many of which have not previously been exhibited nor published so it’s bound to cause much excitement when it opens next year.

Picasso not only lived a long and full life but he was also a prolific artist. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he left a paper trail of sketchbooks, studies, oils and gouaches, pencil and ink, crayon and charcoal drawings, prints (woodcuts and linocuts, lithographs, etchings, engravings) and other works on woven papers, Japanese papers, watermarked paper, embossed papers, newspaper, wallpaper, hotel headed notepaper, menu cards, wrapping paper, back of fag packets, napkins, indeed any old scraps of paper and card that came to hand. He accumulated paper, squirrelled it away, and never threw anything out. He was a hoarder of the highest order – most certainly he’d never been Kondoed.

Picasso was alert to all of the papers’ qualities as he folded, glued together, cut and tore, basted in ink and washes, drew on and rubbed into them. Paper for him was just another a medium (like paint, clay or plaster) to be manipulated. And as he worked he was always finding, losing and refinding his subjects, whether it was a fish or a faun, a woman or a guitar, a portrait or a skull. The multiple transformations he performed in his art evidence his unnerving vitality and confidence.

What this exhibition provides is but one more overview of his entire career, taking us from his very earliest cut-out paper figures of a characterful, squat little terrier and a dove, made when he was eight or nine, to a skull-like self-portrait, drawn the year before he died. Somewhere along the way those earliest, cut-out little creatures return, in scissored paper shapes cut by an adult: a cuttlefish, a feather, light bulbs and a fishing float, and nasty little paper faces and skulls whose eyes and mouths have been burned through the paper, most likely with the tip of a lit cigarette.

The variety of works in The Royal Academy exhibition range through all the periods of Picasso’s development and each section of the show is accompanied by key paintings and sculptures. But the exhibitions’s real pleasures lie in the variety of the individual works, such as the wonderful tiny card and string guitars. Even his poems are drawn as much as written. He just couldn’t seem to stop himself.

There’s a local (to me) story locally that once upon a time, the owner of a cafe asked if Picasso might do a little doodle, on a paper tablecloth or the menu as a memento. The artist shrugged and said he’d just like to pay for the meal – he didn’t want to buy the restaurant!

Picasso was no shrinking violet and had a real sense of his own worth.


Header Photo © David Parry/Royal Academy of Arts © Succession Picasso/DACS 2020 Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and the Cleveland Museum of Art in partnership with the Musée national Picasso-Paris

24 Comments on “Must see: Picasso and Paper

  1. Yes! Such a fun read, Sheree. We have many a print of Picasso on the walls of our house. We visited The Musée Picasso Paris, and I bought a book that chronicles his life and works. You’ve inspired me to crack it open! 🕊

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Hi Sheree, This was an interesting post and I learned a few things about Picasso. I’ve been so impressed with some of the museum and travel sites out there. My favorite so far is Google’s Art and Culture website. What would we do without the internet during the “you know what”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed! It’s amazing and wonderful how many museums and galleries are making their exhibits available on line.


  3. Very cool to read this post. And ironically recently 50 works by Picasso that had never been seen outside of Europe were showcased here in Kentucky at a local museum. The show was sponsored by UPS and called, “Picasso: From Antibes to Louisville”. They displayed 52 ceramics and works on paper by Picasso created between 1931 and 1956. The show closed in March 2020. I had no idea how talented of an artist he really was. I was truly impressed.

    Liked by 1 person

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