Picasso before Picasso
28 drawings from Museu Picasso, Barcelona
Shedding light on the birth of a genius, showed here were works by an adolescent that contain the seeds of the Picasso who left his mark on most of the history of art in the first half of the twentieth century.
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) was a formidable, inspired practitioner of the art of drawing – even before becoming ‘Picasso’. He was well aware of this himself. “At the age of fourteen I could draw like Raphael,” he liked to say. And he was right – more than right.
The interesting and fascinating thing is that he was not only technically skilled as a boy and as a young man, but also showed a maturity about humanity revealed by his ability to observe people and life as it is lived. Every drawing from his hand was an evidence not only of what was to come, but also of a rare, superb empathy with his subjects.
This Louisiana on Paper exhibition of 28 of Picasso’s earliest works took its point of departure in the collections of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.
C.L. Davids Fond og Samling supported the exhibition.
THE YOUNG PICASSO
Pablo Picasso came to La Coruña just before he turned 10. The Ruiz Picasso family lived in the northern Spanish town (Galicia region) from 1891 to 1895, and this was where he began his education as an artist, taught at first by his father José Ruiz and later as a student at the local academy of art. While at school Pablo began on a course of self-tuition in which he depicted urban life. From 1894 on one can see in his free works a tendency towards caricature. The renderings of people, the analysis and articulation of human figures and their peculiarities testify to well developed powers of observation as well as an exquisite irony and sense of humour.
1892-1894. The young Picasso was admitted to the local high school, which was in the same building as the Academy of Art where his father was employed as a teacher. In 1894, after three years at high school, he discontinued his studies there to spend all his time on the artistic training. Here Picasso studied the subjects Drawing of decorations and figures (1892-93), Figure drawing (1893-94) and later, in 1894-95, Copying of plaster casts as well as Figure drawing and Painting from life.
1895. The family moved to a house in Barcelona close to the Academy of Art, where the father was to teach, and where Picasso continued with his studies for the next two years. There he registered for the subjects Drawing from life and Colouring and composition. He learned to construct shapes, light and movement through the contrasts between black and white, and he was given training in the drawing of Landscapes, usually copied from plates or prints of the landscape paintings of earlier artists.
- 1897-98. Picasso spent the school year in Madrid, but returned home after contracting scarlet fever. Before he went to Horta to convalesce, he spent a month in Barcelona, where he made a number of drawings portraying the city and its residents, especially the workers and other members of the lower classes. The life of the city also fascinated him: the new and the older buildings, the roofs that could be seen from the windows in his house or studio.
1898. Picasso moved to Horta de San Juan. His stay there meant on the one hand a liberation from the academic milieu, and on the other hand contact with nature and life in the countryside. Picasso observed – and took part in – the work of the farmers. He captured and rendered the rural workers in sketches that show a refined technique, great powers of observation and total mastery of the art of drawing. Although Picasso was not a landscape painter in the normal sense, the genre is richly represented in the works of his youth.
1899. After his return from Horta Picasso moved into a studio close to the Plaza Real and registered for the subjects that were offered at the Real Círculo Artístico. Ever since his earliest youth Picasso had used drawing as a method of experimenting and learning, on the one hand with respect for the tradition, but also as a way of distancing himself from the Academy. He drew unceasingly and filled all sorts of underlays with innumerable sketches.
In the years around the turn of the century the number of self-portraits grew. In themselves they became a narrative about his first journeys between Paris and Barcelona, while at the same time they were an assertion and confirmation of himself as an artist. The series from 1900-01 displays a number of stylistic changes that paralleled his personal development.
Picasso’s mother, María Picasso, and his sister Dolores Ruiz Picasso, called Lola, were the models for many of the artist’s female figures. From the earliest years La Coruña until the turn of the century, Lola appeared in innumerable sketches, drawings and a few paintings, and after the death of his mother, Lola was the one who took care of the works Picasso left at the family home in Barcelona. These later became the core of the collection in the Museu Picasso.