Picasso: Fired with Passion (4 stars)

This article is from 2007.


A voyeuristic portrayal of the great master’s life beyond the canvas

The crowd puller/money spinner for this exhibition is its heavy emphasis on Picasso’s ceramic work, running from his later years of 1947–1961 and all produced whilst living and working in the South of France. And indeed they are fascinating, ranging chronologically from the clunky, textured plates rich with umber and azure sweeping birds and still lifes painted in the Madoura studio, to more elaborate, intricate vases and surreal sculptures of later years.

The ceramics are not as domineering as the sensationalist title might suggest, however; beautifully crafted lino prints, loose scrawling drawings and richly worked paintings are contextually displayed alongside them, reminding us not only of the range of disciplines the artist constantly exploited, but also of his languid, excessively fluid confidence in just about everything he produced, and the reasons – just in case we had forgotten – for the status his reputation maintains today.

Even more dominant are the vast array of biographical photographs of his life, which unfold with his practice, the two seemingly feeding into and reinforcing one another. The portrayal here of ‘his life, beyond the canvas’ is unashamedly voyeuristic; Picasso working on pottery in Madoura, or socialising with friends such as Jean Cocteau and Lee Miller, or with his very young wife and children at home in the South of France. The accompanying wall texts also outline the development of his personal and working life from 1947 up to his death in 1973 in excessive detail, from his children to his love affairs to the relationships between his lovers. While fascinating, this focus is at times uncomfortably invasive.

National Museum of Scotland, 247 4422, until 28 Oct, open daily 10am–5pm, £6 (£3–£5).

Picasso: Fired with Passion

  • 4 stars

A newly-created exhibition of Picasso's ceramics, metalwork and lithography, from the period 1947-1955. The ceramics themselves are not as overly imposing as the sensationalist title might suggest; the exhibition is instead dominated by a succession of biographical texts, which can feel uncomfortably invasive. Run in…

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