Jacqueline aux mains croisées (1954) - translated as Jacqueline with Crossed Hands

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.

Corrida - la mort du torero (1933) - translated as Bullfight: Death of the Torero

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.

La Minotauromachie (1935) - translated as The Minotauromachia

Figures au bord de la mer (1931) - translated as Figures at the Seashore

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.

Picasso - Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris

Picasso - Challenging The Past

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”?

12 thoughts on “Picasso!

  1. Haha he looked up to Manet you say? Interesting, I have never heard of this Manet…;P But aside from joking, really interesting post! I did not know either that he wasn’t just all about cubism.. which is very interesting to know I think 🙂

  2. I must shamefully confess that I, too, only thought his work was all cubism. I don’t have a formal art education, either, but I know what I like. My friend and I often go to the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery) to ‘mock’ the art. Often we are pleasantly surprised – when there is actual what-I-would-call art, not coloured lines or a mish-mash of colours that are supposed to ‘speak’ to me. I hope we get to see Picasso’s exhibit some day, too.

    • Hahahah I know what you mean, I am the same – there is some stuff I see and just think “that’s not art…,” although a lot of art academics would argue with me. But I don’t think just throwing random lines or colours on something automatically makes it art, or if it does, it doesn’t make it good art, it makes it pretentious rubbish hahahaha.
      But yes, definitely see Picasso’s works one day if you get a chance! They’re quite lovely and thought provoking! 🙂

  3. I love the fact you were open enough to just take his work in and look. So many write artists off on the basis of what little they have seen, like writers, musicians or performers we don’t want to be typecast. I loved the exhibition too and happy reading. I always hated Picasso at art school- all the books on him were too big and weighed too much. He was the War & Peace of the art library. I bought the colouring-in books when i went to see it. Cheers Sue

    • I agree, I think a lot of people write artists off too easily based on a small amount of their work, and I think people do this with music and literature and so on, too. For me, I know with music and literature in particular, when I become interested, I have to hear every album an artist has produced, and read every book an author has written – I want to absorb their work holistically, and am willing to take the good with the bad, if there happens to be any bad (which in music there almost always is one “bad” album). I guess I would take that same approach with artists too, though it is something I had never consciously thought about until just now.
      I can imagine the books on Picasso at art school would be enormous – if I had the knowledge of art theory I am sure there would be so much to consider with an artist who produced such an enormous volume of work in his lifetime. Exhibitions like this definitely make me more interested in the world of art, though, and I definitely want to learn more about it. 🙂

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