13 March 2013

Picasso 1901 at the Courtauld

The current show at the Courtauld Gallery in London, Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901, may focus on only 18 paintings but what a selection - definitely worth seeing. That year was probably one of the most significant in Picasso’s long and eventful artistic life (1881-1973). He had first arrived in Paris in 1900 but returned to Spain for most of the first half of 1901. In February, back in Paris, Picasso’s artist friend and fellow Spaniard Carles Casagemas committed suicide. Ambroise Vollard (C├ęzanne’s dealer) had organised a solo exhibition for Picasso in June and July, so on his return he took over Casagemas’ studio in Monmartre and set to work.

The small first room in the exhibition show the more transitional works of early 1901 with contemporary influences like Japanese prints and Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas (At the Moulin Rouge, left). In the larger room are some of the works produced for the Vollard show. As well as those concerning Casagemas’ death, these include early Blue period pieces with harlequins (below), Child with A Dove, which was for so long on loan to the Courtauld but may not be seen again in London for some time, and the striking self-portrait of the artist, Yo Picasso (below left).

Seated Harlequin and Harlequin and Companion

The £6 admission is good value for a small exhibition given its quality, but the catalogue at £25 for a 160 page paperback seems dear. Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 continues until May 26.

And afterwards why not a brief walk to Two Temple Place to see English plein air painting from just a few years earlier (until 14 April, not Mondays, free admission).

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