Friday, 8 March 2013

Paris 1901

This is the year in the life & work of Pablo Picasso that the Courtauld Gallery focuses on in this excellent exhibition. The show has only paintings from Paris in 1901 when the Spanish artist had a breakthrough year, hence the title Becoming Picasso.

In some of the artworks on display there's a clear link between both what came before and after. One such work is Casagemas in his coffin (below) where I feel there's perhaps the influence of Cezanne and van Gogh in the brushstrokes, before a flat simplication of colour, line and form began soon after. This work depicts how he imagined his dear friend, Carlos Casagemas, looked in his coffin at the funeral Picasso could not attend. This was a suicide that deeply troubled the Spaniard and started his 'blue period.' The subject also cropped up in later works, such as The Three Dancers of 1925.

Casagemas in his coffin, oil on board, 1901

Harlequin & companion, oil on canvas, 1901
It was not long before Picasso's work lost more of its spatial depth, such as in Harlequin & companion (above) and Child with a Dove (below) and the reduction of three dimensions arguably set him on the road towards Cubism. I like these beautiful paintings for their differing use of flat colours inside bold black outlines: bold stunning colours above, soft pastels below.


Child with a Dove, oil on canvas, 1901
Ticket exhibitions at the Courtauld Gallery are normally spread over just two rooms, as is the case here. Becoming Picasso reflects that old adage: 'quality over quantity,' so please dont be put off by the small size of this show. For me this is the best show in London at the moment, and thats before you even look round the impressive permanent collection in the rest of the building.



  1. I love the Harlequin and Companion canvas. It defies all the rules of composition (figures on the edge should be looking inwards etc) but works wonderfully.

  2. Thanks for reading my post and for your comment.

    Yes, 'Harlequin and Companion' is a great painting, isnt it. I hadnt considered its composition before, but thats another way its ahead of its time too.