The exhibition spans both the chronology of Picasso’s life and the breadth of his experimentation, as shown in various mediums. His earlier sketches are presented side-by-side with later linocut prints, drypoint prints, and ink on paper works created in the last few years of his life. These can then be contextualised with photographs taken by friends and acquaintances throughout his life, in order to experience a miniature image of the artist’s life as a whole, punctuated by artistic progression, collaboration, and innovation.
Throughout the works on display, some of Picasso’s key subject matter and thought processes can be seen: from his desire to simplify and distil the essence of the human mind and figure – as seen in the pencil work Fleurs – to his frequent considerations of the predominance of the male gaze in portraiture, which arise in full force with works such as Le Voyeur and Trois nus. Picasso’s skeptical and playful approach to subject matter can also be found in his equally inquisitive approach to medium – especially with his avant-garde linocut rincée technique, as seen in L’Étreinte II, which overturned conventional linocut printing techniques, as well as in Le combat dans l’arène, a drypoint print executed in the same year as Guernica.
Amongst these works are examples of the artist’s fascination with literature, including a limited edition copy of Balzac’s Le Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu, illustrated with drawings and 13 original etchings inspired by the short story, and Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe – one of Picasso’s reinterpretations of Edouard Manet’s famous painting of the same name. These rare books are presented in collaboration with Peter Harrington Rare Books.
Picasso on paper presents an artist whose influence spanned an unprecedented breadth of artistic movements in a manner seen by very few others.