Last weekend I had the enormous pleasure of visiting the Art Gallery of New South Wales down in Sydney in order to see one of the biggest exhibitions ever held there – Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. I had only seen a small amount of Picasso’s works before, and I won’t try to pretend I am some kind of art expert either – I enjoy and can appreciate art, but have never studied it properly before, and I don’t possess a great deal of skill in making my own art, either. But I do enjoy it, especially when the artist I am looking at is as talented as this man was.
Let me be perfectly honest – I was blown away. For a start I didn’t realise how long a career he lived out – the first three quarters of the twentieth century, more or less. But what I really loved what just how much his art and direction changed. You can see the influences coming into his life, in some cases more literally, such as his different wives and lovers, but in other cases through recurring imagery in his art, such as the minotaur (which was often representing himself), the Spanish imagery, and so on.
I must shamefully admit that I had pretty much associated Picasso entirely with Cubism in my head, so I was also quite surprised to find how much of his work wasn’t part of this movement at all. He really experimented with a lot of different ideas, and took a lot of his cues from artists he looked up to, ranging from the Spanish Velázquez and Goya, to Rembrandt, Delacroix, Manet, and more. You can quite clearly see how he used techniques from these masters and turned them into something else entirely, and breathed new life into something which needed reinventing at the turn of last century. What also really impresses me is just how active he was his whole life – in his last couple of decades, as an old man, it seems he didn’t slow down much at all, but painted with a renewed vigour and urgency, as if he were trying to defy the inevitable. I like that quite a lot, and I think we can all take something from that attitude and philosophy to the act of creation, on any level and in any form.
I spent nearly two hours in the gallery, moving through the ten rooms of Picasso’s works slowly, spending long periods of time just stood there, gazing at some of the works, some of which I have included in this post. I thought at this point I might show you the two which struck me the most, one of which is a highly detailed etching featuring the minotaur again, and the other one is a painting which to me oozes a surreal kind of sexuality.
Lastly, I thought I might show you a couple of books I bought on the way out. The first one is the catalogue book for this particular exhibition, and the other one is a slightly more theoretical book, that looks at Picasso’s life and philosophy toward art, particularly his own.
What are your thoughts on Picasso and his various artworks? Are you a fan? Have you managed to see much of his work “in the flesh”?