Friday, 29 May 2009

Picasso in London and Paris

I kicked myself last year for missing the Picasso show in the Prado and swore I'd go to the Picasso show in the Grand Palais, but when I got back from BsAs this January it was sold out except for a few tickets at 2.30am. By all accounts it was an extraordinary feast of painting, Titians from Florence, Goyas from Madrid... and a few Picassos too. Not something I could digest at 2am.

The Picasso show in the pit at the National Gallery is a bit disappointing. The pit (the basement gallery for changing shows) never seems well-lit. For Velazquez they used the upstairs (daylit) galleries: they could have done a stunning show upstairs with these same Picassos alongside gallery paintings. Nevertheless there's some lovely work there. The first room takes off: clockwise some early self portraits, middle aged self portraits, the man with the ice cream, the painter's family, then the aging lovers, tongues entwined -- and finally the minotaur's skull. (There are quite a few skulls in the show.) But somehow it feels strangely half-hearted, disconnected, which it shouldn't.

I had a couple of hours last Monday afternoon so I visited the Musee Picasso in Paris (the website is a disaster, very little material and many broken links). It's a wonderful, spacious old building with great windows, and the space and light make the paintings look good. But, more interesting, they display sculpture alongside, and even in front of, paintings, and I realised that I've found Picasso shows with 3D work far more satisfying than shows of just paintings: even better if there are prints and drawings too. I've always thought of a dialogue with 3D in the paintings: in cubist paintings space is deliberately flattened, then in the 1920s the volumes are equally deliberately rounded. Later, perhaps, they settle down (if anything in Picasso ever settled down) into constructions of marks and colour with less emphasis on volumes.

The Musee Picasso shows his own collection of paintings, including a marvellous Matisse, the one of the oranges. It hardly has the vivacity of a Picasso but it manages, with an effortlessness born of huge effort, to be flat and three-dimensional, with colour precisely in place to create space on a flat surface. Magical.

1 comment:

londontango said...

Ah, Picasso. I remember standing in line for for 3 hours to get tickets to see the Picasso exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NYC for my 21st birthday. It had everything from his early work (line drawings and sketches) to the cubist stage. I will never forget it. I don't know if it still does, but the Guggenheim in NY also had a permanent exhibit of a fair amount of his sculptures.
At least you got to see some of his work.