The National Portrait Gallery celebrates the modernist master, Pablo Picasso.
Exhibitions rarely get bigger than this – Sam Rogg celebrates Pablo Picasso as his portraits come to the National Portrait Gallery
Pablo Picasso’s career spanned almost 80 years, and over that time he created more than 20,000 works of art, including paintings, sculptures and ceramics. No artist before or after him has been more prolific or versatile. Time and time again, he redefined various art forms, shifting his style whenever he pleased.
‘Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?’ he asked when it came to portraiture. This month, the National Portrait Gallery reveals how masterfully he could do all three.
More than 80 of the Spanish artist’s works will be on display in Picasso-Portraits, ranging from familiar masterpieces to paintings that have never been shown in Britain. ‘ This exhibition will confront one’s preconceived ideas of what a portrait should be and what a Picasso ought to look like,’ says Bernardo Laniado-Romero, director of Museu Picasso in Barcelona, who worked with the National Portrait Gallery to stage this landmark show.
Naturally, there are more than a few cubist portraits on display, executed in the style that Picasso himself invented. More unusual are the classic drawings, self-portraits and witty caricatures he created, inspired by artists such as Velázquez and Rembrandt.
‘I had quite strict criteria for what constituted a portrait,’ says curator Professor Elizabeth Cowling ahead of the show. ‘ The works had to be of identified individuals and to be set up as portraits rather than, say, as nudes or genre scenes.’
Friends, lovers, wives, children – Picasso famously chose to depict people in his inner circle rather than work to commission like many of his peers. The result is an amazing kaleidoscope of characters and intimate moments that leap off the canvas like pages from a journal. But then, as Picasso always said, ‘painting is just another way of keeping a diary’. From 6 Oct. St Martin’s Place, WC2H 0HE. T: 020-7306 0055. www.npg.org.uk