Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 at the Courtauld Gallery
Becoming Paris is a testament to Pablo Picasso’s second trip to Paris, which was marked by an exhibition of work considered to be the stylistic turning point in his career and, in a wider respect, 20th century art. The Courtauld is a small gallery in the grand setting of Somerset House. With such a small gallery space the curators had to choose wisely and they have done just that. The selection of paintings from his formative shows depicts the denizens of Paris in bold colour. Children, prostitutes, self portraiture and dead friends are the subjects of his work in this period. Before his move into Cubism, these bold and personal paintings have a certain melancholic understanding of their subject.
There are a few standout works on the walls of the Courtauld and they are, deservedly, the most famous of his early works: Yo – Picasso (I — Picasso) is a breathtakingly self assured self portrait for such a young artist. The eyes of the young Picasso seemed to bore into you no matter where you were in the diminutive gallery.
The exhibition is divided over two rooms: the first showing his work before the pivotal show with Vollard, and the second documenting his Blue Period, most famously represented by The Blue Room. There is a marked tinge of melancholia in this room, and the suicide of Picasso’s friend Casagemas hangs heavy in the air.
Due to the nature of Becoming Picasso, obviously his very famous works are absent, however it is a testament to the Courtauld that they have managed to put together such a compendious collection of Picasso’s early work. The name of the exhibition marks the almost narrative nature of the paintings on show – the evolution of a master, tightly told.
Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 is at the Courtauld Gallery until 26th May 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.