A new exhibition of ceramics by Pablo Picasso opens in March 2020 at the Huxley-Parlor Gallery. This is the first time that the artist’s ceramics will be exhibited solo in a commercial gallery in London.
Pablo Picasso’s ceramic works have aroused great interest in recent years. With subjects varying from Greek mythological figures, animals, faces and even scenes from Spanish bullfight, his pieces are united by an accessible and playful aesthetic that bears the recognizable hand of Picasso. The selection on display at Huxley-Parlor, featuring muses, faces and curious animals in unique designs and unusual shapes, is a testament to the artist’s variety of practice and enduring appeal over time.
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Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is widely regarded as one of the most influential and revolutionary artists of the twentieth century. Born in Malaga, Spain, he is best known for his paintings, although he is also an accomplished sculptor, ceramist, printmaker, set designer, poet and playwright. Alongside Georges Braque, he is credited with the creation of cubism, along with other strong associations with the cultural movement of surrealism. He lived most of his adult life in France, where he died at the age of 91.
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His ceramics are mainly the result of a 25-year collaboration with the Madoura Pottery workshop in Vallauris, where he meets his muse and second wife Jacqueline Roque. During this period, which spanned from 1946 until his death in 1973, he produced more than 600 pieces, from more than 3,500 ceramic creations, intended to be accessible and easily affordable. Picasso created editions of up to 500 pieces, the result of prolific practice and an ever-evolving style.
From elegant plates and platters to intricate and imaginative pitchers and vases, the pieces on display will reveal the breadth of the artist’s innovative practice in clay. Notable works include a delicate white plate depicting the profile of Jacqueline Roque and a number of her statuettes decorated with owls. Other whimsical and unusual pieces include Figurehead, a brightly colored glazed white ceramic vessel shaped to resemble a figurehead found on the bow of a ship, and Ice Cream Pitcher, which takes on human features and is recognizable thanks to its bulbous spout, short round handle and opening for water filling.
Picasso drew his inspiration from the summer light and Mediterranean colors of the Côte d’Azur in the south of France. These are reflected in the sinuous shapes and delicate colors of her items, mostly blue, black and earthy tones. The shapes of the different pieces speak of Picasso’s many sources of inspiration, including his fascination with classical antiquity. Amphorae, or large vases with two handles, echo the silhouette of ancient Greek vases. Conversely, borage, or long-necked pitchers often used to contain oil, reflect local craftsmanship and are characteristic of the Provencal region of France.
As in Picasso’s prolific painted work, his use of vigorous, abstract brushstrokes brings life and dynamism to his ceramic subjects. In some cases, the arms of the jugs are made into extensions of the figures themselves, becoming the anatomical features of the animals depicted. These works testify in particular to the evolution of Picasso’s practice, starting with mainly utilitarian objects such as plates or bowls and progressing to more complex forms.
Throughout his later career, Picasso experimented with various ceramic techniques, including oxides and glazes, firing processes and engravings. It adopts two main styles: the precise reproduction of an object and the creation of unique patterns using dry clay molds. Works of the latter type are distinguished by the trademark “Empriente Originale de Picasso”. Each piece contains a stamp or marking. The most common, present on all the pieces on display, are ‘Madoura Plein Feu’, which verifies the authenticity and provenance of the edition, and ‘Edition Picasso’, limited editions authorized by the artist and created at the Madoura factory.
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Picasso gave priority to the functionality of his ceramics. Many of his early pieces were used in his own home or given to friends. Unlike the high prices for his paintings and sculptures, his ceramics were both affordable and readily available. Reflecting the unmistakable style of Picasso, they then provided as they do today a unique key in one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
The ceramics on display date largely from the early 1950s and measure between 9 and 15 inches in height.
Huxley-Parlor Gallery, 3-5 Swallow Street, London W1B 4DE
March 18 – April 30, 2020