Picasso on Paper
The aquatints, allegories and autobiography of a modernist master
This article is from 2007.
They say that all is fair in love and war – although the word ‘fair’ seems a little humdrum when you take in the remarkable collection of works exhibited in one of the Festival’s undeniable big guns. Throughout a selection of around 120 graphic works, spanning 70 years of Picasso’s professional life, complex passions concerning women, politics, roguish love affairs and ruthless war strategies run deep, but at the same time are beautifully expressed in the simplest of graphic lines. The exhibition brings together everything from etchings, to cartoonish pencil drawings, to fluid aquatints, and of course the flattened out Cubist papier collés, or paper collages, that Picasso and Braque notedly brought to the Modernist table.
While some visitors might feel that a Picasso show should be slightly heavier on the Cubist slant, the fact that they get to see such a wide range of Picasso’s work throughout his entire career should more than make up for that. Almost every piece is thick with Picasso’s emotional temper – whether it comes forward in the satirical comments he makes in his comic strip style prints depicting the tyranny of Franco, or in the saddened eye in one of his many prints of one of his frequently changing lovers or muses. One of the most simple and most beautiful of these portraits is ‘Françoise with a Bow in her Hair’, a1946 lithograph in which a smattering of uncomplicated inky lines are aching with emotion.
Throughout, visible themes of literature, allegory, autobiography and history come forward – from the classical allegories of Greek and Roman classicism depicted in his Vollard Suite series of etchings, to the frontispieces he created for books by fellow artists and poets such as Tristan Tzara, and his infamous historical accounts of the Spanish Civil War. However, it is in his lithograph studies of The Bull, a motif seen in his most famous comments on the war, the mural Guernica, that we really see how perfectly Picasso could pare down the lines of a subject to the most unadorned, most unembellished graphic line, but without losing a single ounce of the power behind that subject. (Claire Mitchell)
Dean Gallery, 624 6200, until 23 Sep, 10am—5pm, £6 (£4).