Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901
14 February-26 May 2013
The Courtauld Gallery, London
Catalogue by Barnaby Wright (ed.)
ISBN 9781907372452 (paperback), 30 [pounds sterling]
(Paul Holberton Publishing/The Courtauld Gallery)
There could not have been a better place to hang this show. The Courtauld Gallery's small but perfectly formed Impressionist and Fauve collections locate Pablo Picasso's 'year of years' within exactly the right painterly and historical context, providing intimate bookends to a pivotal moment in the Spanish artist's long and trail-blazing career. Curator Barnaby Wright's selection of 18 canvases demonstrates Picasso's influences and how he broke from them to become himself.
Turn-of-the-century Paris was a heady destination for the 19-year-old Picasso, who arrived there in October 1900. It was, in the words of Picasso's close friend, the painter and poet Caries Casagemas, 'a kind of Eden or dirty arcadia'. Such an ambiance was avidly sought by the immensely talented artist. For despite his youth, Picasso was no provincial ingenue. Not only had he already displayed prowess and sailed through art academies elsewhere, sketches, watercolours and oils from 1895-99, many of them housed in Barcelona's Museu Picasso, attest to his precocity--but was also active in the sophisticated cultural circles of a highly cosmopolitan Barcelona.
It is still unclear exactly how many paintings Picasso managed to transport from Barcelona to Paris for the solo show arranged by his agent-runner, the anarchist Pere Manach, for June 1901 at Galerie Vollard. In any case, he laboured furiously for five to six weeks to produce many of the 64 works that were eventually displayed.