Works by Picasso were first exhibited in Britain in Manet and the Post-Impressionists, organised by critic Roger Fry at the Grafton Galleries, London, in November 1910. Picasso showed drawings, prints and two paintings – the early Cubist Portrait of Clovis Sagot, 1909 being criticised in the press. The reproduction of a Cubist painting in the magazine New Age prompted a passionate debate. G.K. Chesterton described the work as ‘a piece of paper on which Mr. Picasso has had the misfortune to upset the ink and tried to dry it with his boots’.
Picasso featured prominently in Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition of 1912. His solo exhibition of drawings at the Stafford Gallery earlier that year was welcomed by the critic and curator Frank Rutter, one of several British writers and artists who knew Picasso and regularly visited his Paris studio. Picasso’s few British champions were associated with the Bloomsbury group – a circle of artists, writers and intellectuals – especially Fry and fellow-critic Clive Bell. At the Grafton Group exhibition in January 1914, Fry showed Head of a Man (exhibited nearby), which he had recently bought, and photographs of Picasso’s recent constructions. With war imminent, it was some time before such radical works were seen again in Britain.