While growing up I always liked Picasso – his work was easily recognisable, colourful, strange and interesting. But familiarity, as they say, can so often lead to contempt (or at least boredom) as each modern art gallery you visit anywhere in the world seemingly displays the same Picasso images.
But this exhibition gives you a chance to see how Picasso himself grew up at his first major exhibition in Paris in 1901 and you learn how his prolific nature was apparent even at the age of 19 as he produced up to three paintings a day leading up to the exhibition.
The three sets of pictures that stand out are the world of Parisian dancers of the Can-Can and the Moulin Rouge in the first room with vibrant, bold brush strokes, colours and movement; the more sedate and melancholy set of individuals drinking in Parisian cafes such as the “Absinthe Drinker” with its exaggerated pose and elongated fingers; and the self-portrait “Yo-Picasso” (I-Picasso).
The exhibition texts comment on Picasso’s influences, which you can see in most paintings as you walk round. For instance the ‘dramatic framing’ also used by Manet, the painted outlines and simplified colours of the “Blue Room (The Tub)” reminiscent of Van Gogh and the decadent Parisian subject matter made famous by Toulouse-Lautrec.
But it’s the self-portrait ‘Yo-Picasso’ that is suggestive of what’s to come for this young painter; it is bold, exciting, simple (but not abstract) and incredibly engaging. As I walked around the second room of the exhibition I kept catching glimpses of it, with his strong eyes staring out, forcing me to go back and have another look. While all the other paintings are interesting, it is this self-portrait that if somehow you had never seen a Picasso before would make you want to find out more; to find out what this confident young man got up to next.
I also love this review by Alastair Sooke at The Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/9878040/Becoming-Picasso-Paris-1901-Courtauld-Gallery-review.html
The exhibition is on until 26 May 2013. I went late morning on a Monday and waited thirty minutes to go in as it is on a timed ticket basis, but while it may be busy it’s not overbearing.
£3 on Mondays, £6 every other day