Pablo Picasso drawing in Antibes, summer 1946. Black-and-white photograph Photo © Michel Sima / Bridgeman Images © Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
This month the Royal Academy of Arts to present Picasso and Paper, the most comprehensive exhibition devoted to Picasso’s imaginative and original uses of paper ever to be held. Bringing together over 300 works and encompassing Picasso’s entire prolific 80-year career, this ground-breaking exhibition will focus on the myriad ways in which the artist worked both on and with paper, and will offer new insights into his creative spirit and working methods.
Pablo Picasso, Femmes à leur toilette, Paris, winter 1937–38 Collage of cut-out wallpapers with gouache on paper pasted onto canvas, 299 x 448 cm Musée national Picasso-Paris. Pablo Picasso Gift in Lieu, 1979. MP176 Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Adrien Didierjean © Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) worked across a range of mediums including painting, sculpture, ceramics and graphic arts. He also invented a universe of art involving paper. His prolonged engagement with the medium grew from the artist’s deep appreciation of the physical world and his desire to manipulate diverse materials. He drew incessantly, using many different media, including watercolour, pastel and gouache, on a broad range of papers. He assembled collages of cut-and-pasted papers; created sculptures from pieces of torn and burnt paper; produced both documentary photographs and manipulated photographs on paper; and spent decades investigating an array of printmaking techniques on paper supports.
Pablo Picasso, ‘Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe’ after Manet, I, Mougins, 26 January–13 March 1962
Linocut, fifth state. Artist’s proof on Arches wove paper, printed in six passes in purple, yellow, red, green, blue and black, 62 x 75.2 cm Musée national Picasso-Paris. Pablo Picasso Gift in Lieu, 1979. MP3488 Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Marine Beck-Coppola © Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
The exhibition will be organised within a broad chronological framework exploring all stages of Picasso’s career working with paper. Highlights will include Women at Their Toilette, winter 1937-38 (Musée national Picasso-Paris) (see above) an extraordinary collage of cut and pasted papers measuring 4.5 metres in length, which will be exhibited in the UK for the first time in over 50 years; outstanding Cubist papiers-collés such as Violin, 1912 (Musée national Picasso-Paris); and studies for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907 including Bust of Woman or Sailor (Study for ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’), 1907 (Musée national Picasso-Paris).
Pablo Picasso, Self-portrait, 1918 ?Pencil and charcoal on wove paper, 64.2 x 49.4 cm?Musée national Picasso-Paris. Pablo Picasso gift in lieu, 1979. MP794? Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Mathieu Rabeau ?© Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
Picasso’s drawings, including Self-portrait, 1918 (Musée national Picasso-Paris) (see above) and Seated Woman (Dora), 1938 (Fondation Beyeler), will be fully presented throughout the show. These will feature alongside key examples of the variety of printing techniques that he explored – etching, drypoint, engraving, aquatint, lithograph and linocut – such as ‘Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe’ after Manet I, 26 January – 13 March 1962 (Musée national Picasso-Paris). Throughout the exhibition, a sequence of unfolding themes will contextualise the paper works, which will be displayed alongside a select number of closely related paintings and sculptures. For example, Picasso’s great masterpiece of the Blue Period, La Vie, 1903 (Cleveland Museum of Art), will be displayed with preparatory drawings and other works on paper exploring corresponding themes of poverty, despair and social alienation. Picasso’s Cubist bronze Head of a Woman (Fernande), 1909 (Musée national Picasso-Paris) will be exhibited together with closely associated drawings. The monumental sculpture of the war years, Man with a Sheep, 1943 (Musée national Picasso Paris), will be displayed together with a group of large ink and wash drawings that amplify the sculpture’s emotional resonance.
Pablo Picasso, Head of a Woman, Mougins, 4 December 1962 Pencil on cut and folded wove paper, 42 x 26.5 cm Musée national Picasso-Paris. Pablo Picasso Gift in Lieu, 1979. MP1850 Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris) / Béatrice Hatala © Succession Picasso/DACS 2019
A focused section within the exhibition will examine the materials and techniques used by Picasso
over the course of his career. This will include an early woodcut printed by hand using a salad bowl
as the block, the collaborative photograms he made with Dora Maar and later with André Villers, as
well as experimental graphic works and illustrated books. A display ranging from newspaper and
envelopes to antique laid papers with distinctive watermarks will demonstrate the different papers
Picasso used, while the astonishing array of ephemera he kept – personal letters and cards
decorated with drawings – will also be represented.
The film Le Mystère Picasso of 1955, a remarkable documentary recording Picasso drawing with felt-tip pens on blank newsprint, will be shown alongside original drawings made for the production. The closing section focuses on Picasso’s last decade which saw the final flourishing of his work, particularly as a printmaker. Drawings and prints will be shown together with a series of copper plates, as well as Picasso’s printing press from the period.
Picasso and Paper the Royal Academy of Arts, London Saturday 25th January – Monday 13th April 2020
Pablo Picasso, Seated Woman (Dora), 1938?Ink, gouache and coloured chalk on paper, 76.5 x 56 cm?Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Beyeler Collection?Photo: Peter Schibli ?© Succession Picasso/DACS 2019