© Successió Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2012
Owl, Spanish platter (May 10th, 1957)—Donation from Jacqueline Picasso, 1982. Museu PIcasso Barcelona
This season’s big show at the Picasso Museum features the ceramic work created by the artist during the latter part of his life.
This autumn, the Museu Picasso, under its new director Bernardo Laniado-Romero, will focus its attention on gems from the permanent collection. Its sublime collection of ceramics were a gift from Picasso’s widow in 1982. Along with the series of Picasso’s painted studies of Velázquez’s ‘Las Meninas’, the ceramics collection is one of the jewels of the Barcelona museum, representing some of the finest of the artist’s late work.
The ‘Picasso’s Ceramics’ exhibition was mounted by guest Picasso scholars from the UK, Marilyn McCully and Michael Raeburn, and it opens on Picasso’s birthday. McCully was the curator of the definitive 1998-99 Picasso ceramic exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum and London’s Royal Academy of the Arts: ‘Picasso, Painter and Sculptor in Clay’.
Jacqueline Roque, a 27-year-old divorcée with a young daughter, met 72-year-old Picasso in 1953, when she took a job at her cousin’s business, the Madoura Pottery in Valouris, France. Picasso was the world’s most famous artist and was living with Françoise Gilot, the mother of his two young children, when the romance with Roque began. When Picasso’s long-estranged wife Olga Khokhlova died in 1955, the lovers were free to marry, which they did in 1961. Jacqueline remained with him until his death in 1973. In 1982, four years before her own death, Jacqueline Picasso gave the group of 41 ceramics to the Museu Picasso. It was a fitting choice, given the shared interest of the couple in ceramics.
Picasso developed an interest in ceramics quite late in his career, when he was well into his 60s, after he developed a working relationship with ceramicists Georges and Suzanne Ramies in 1946 during his holidays to the French Riviera. He worked with them in Valouris off and on for the next 25 years as an unlikely ‘apprentice’ in a medium that he had not mastered.
Although he did not succeed in throwing a traditional pot on a wheel, he adapted existing forms to his own creative impulses, usually incorporating his two-dimensional designs into a pre-existing three-dimensional format. He also fashioned lumps of clay into owls, pigeons, etc., but most of the Jacqueline Picasso gift collection is of the kitchen-utensil variety of shapes. His espagnoles, or Spanish platters, are rectangular plates with rounded corners on which the homesick artist-in-exile explored Spanish themes such as the corrida de toros. His painted pignales are common casserole forms. And yet, when manipulated and decorated by Picasso, the everyday objects take on a new aura, reminiscent of the ancient Greek traditions of painted pottery. His decorated emprentes originales were multiples drawn from a single mould as authorised by the artist.
The piece-by-piece presentation of each object by the illustrious curators promises to shed new light on the inventive artist’s creative process as well as the pictorial imagery that inspired him in each case.
Looking ahead, next summer’s big show at the museum will be ‘Me, Picasso’, an exhibition of self-portraits, which will include loan works from all periods of the artist’s oeuvre, along with selections from the permanent collection.
‘Ceràmiques de Picasso: un regal de Jacqueline a Barcelona’, October 26th to April 1st, 2013. ‘Yo, Picasso. Autoretrats’, May 29th, 2013 to September 1st, 2013. Museu Picasso de Barcelona. www.museupicasso.bcn.cat