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The Royal Academy of Arts 'Picasso and Paper' Review

Now on display at The Royal Academy of Arts, Picasso and Paper grants visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the ingenuity and creativity of one of the most globally revered artists from the 20th century, Pablo Picasso. 

Spanning twelve rooms, you will certainly need to set aside some time to truly appreciate the exhibition. With over 300 works consisting of a wide variety of media – including ink drawings, collages, sketches, sculptures, poems, letters, and even a documentary utilising stop-motion and time-lapse to show the evolution of one of his works from beginning to end – visitors are led chronologically through the life and works of the artist. 

Beginning with works from his childhood, the exhibition demonstrates the evolution of Picasso’s creative processes and style over the course of his life. Moreover, the exhibit keys into major life events of the artist and how these impacted his craft: how the death of Charles Casagemas, a dear friend, drove the creation of his Blue Period; how his fascination for the circus led to the Rose Period, and how each of his affairs factored into his works. 

While at times the show veers from strictly displaying works on paper, the small selection of sculptures and canvas paintings are largely justifiable as they illustrate how Picasso’s works on paper were often used as preparatory studies for final pieces. Unfortunately, this led to the inclusion of a rather disappointing reproduction of Les Demoiselles D’Avignon. However, as an entire room is dedicated to sketches and preparatory works for the resulting painting, this ill advised inclusion can be forgiven. Here, the works on paper show viewers the incredible evolution the composition of a single work of Picasso’s underwent. A few rooms later, illustrating an early example of the intermingling of fashion and art, visitors are treated to costume and set design studies from the ballet, Parade. A reproduced costume from the production sits alongside watercolour and ink sketches.

As a whole, the exhibition is made up of  a diverse collection of works. From the pieces created while Picasso was a child, to those produced in Nazi occupied Paris, to his emulations of Delacroix and Manet, this vast array of works demonstrates Picasso’s insatiable desire to create. Visitors walk away with the knowledge that the prolific nature of Picasso was due to an unending desire to explore and experiment with materials.

by Isabelle Barker

Royal Academy of Art, Picasso and Paper, 25 January – 13 April 2020


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