By Marta Perez-Cejuela / London / An inexhaustible source of inspiration for exhibitions, the work of Pablo Picasso is returning to London via the Royal Academy of Arts, specifically the artistic universe the Spaniard created with – and on – paper.
The “Picasso and Paper” exhibition, which was presented on Tuesday in London, will open its doors on Jan. 25 and run until April 13 providing a retrospective of the 80 years of the prolific artist’s career marked by his constant pursuit of innovation and his efforts to integrate materials from the plastic arts with paper.
“By chance, I was able to get a stock of Japanese paper. It cost me an arm and a leg! But without it, I never would have done these sketches. The paper seduced me,” Picasso told a friend in 1943.
The artist (1881-1973) made collages of cut and pasted paper, created sculptures starting with torn and burned pieces of paper and spent decades investigating a variety of printing and engraving techniques on paper.
Sketches in pencil, ink and pastel paintings are some of the experiments on paper that will be on display to highlight the early years of Picasso’s career, a time marked by his participation in the circle of modernists who gathered at the Barcelona tavern Els Quatre Cats.
Picasso’s masterwork from those days – “La Vie” (1903) – will be exhibited right at the start of the tour of his work along with preparatory sketches and other pieces on paper exploring poverty, desperation and social alienation, themes that dominated his early work, known as his “Blue Period.”
The show moves forward into his “Rose Period,” characterized by his 1906 trip with Fernande Olivier to Gosol, a remote village in the Pyrenees where he created a number of works in gouache and watercolor on paper.
The focus of his interest was on nudes, both male and female, said museum curator Ann Dumas about Picasso’s work in Gosol.
In those works can be seen the influence of non-Western art that later would come out in “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), a large oil painting for which he did 16 sketches as studies, three of which are now on exhibit in London.
In 1912, the painter was already immersed in Cubism, a movement that he himself created along with Frenchman Georges Braques, and in which he would develop many works in paper and collages, like “Violin,” which he finished in the fall and winter of 1912.
The most surprising thing is Picasso’s ability to reinvent himself completely and freely, Dumas said.
The exposition also touches on his neoclassical period, where sketches with lines leaving large spaces of blank paper predominate, an exercise in linear realist style that can be seen in the portraits that he made of people like Igor Stravinsky and Auguste Renoir.
Regarding his contact with surrealism, a movement that he approached without uniting fully with it, the exposition includes “Femmes à leur toilette” (1937-1938), an extraordinary collage or cut and pasted paper 4.5 meters (14.75 feet) long that Picasso prepared a year after his famous work “Guernica.”
Newspapers, envelopes, old papers and an incredible variety of personal letters are included in the show, along with photograms Picasso created in collaboration with Dora Maar – his lover for many years – along with different experimental graphic works and illustrated books.
William H. Robinson, the administrator of the Cleveland Museum of Art, said that he feels that one of the aspects of Picasso that has been overlooked are his contributions to illustrations in books, having illustrated more than 156 books during his career, books which he often gave to close friends and poets.
Late in his life, Picasso did not stop searching for new methods and he fully delved into the world of impression with collections of copper plates, sketches, engravings and prints being the result of that phase.
The many and varied works in the exposition, most of them provided by the Picasso Museum in Paris, will travel to Cleveland, Ohio, for a parallel exhibit that will start on May 24. (January 21, 2020, EFE/Practica Español)
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