Tate Britain Exhibition


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It is largely due to Pablo Picasso that the conception of art as a powerful emotional medium, rather than a search for the perfection of ideal forms of beauty, has become accepted among the artists of the twentieth century.

The turning-point in Picasso’s early career came when he was 25. The struggle in which the young artist found himself involved is forcibly illustrated in the great picture, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, painted in Paris in the spring of 1907. It came as a shock to his friends that he should abandon a style that they had grown to love and produce instead a form of art that they could no longer understand. No one, not even Matisse, Braque and Derain, nor his devoted patrons, nor even his close friend and admirer Guillaume Apollinaire could stomach this work, which at first sight seemed to them outrageous. It took many months to digest this insult to their sensibility, but gradually they came not only to accept it but to find that it was exerting a profound influence on them.

Although since that time the work of Picasso has not always been cubist in style, the discoveries made between 1909 and the outbreak of the 1914 war (which ended his close association with Braque), have led to innumerable developments in his work and have spread their influence more widely than any other single movement in the arts.

The enveloping tenderness of maternity, the wonder of the human head, the dilemma of the artist in relation to his model, the sacrificial drama of the bullfight, the heroism of classical myths, the metamorphosis of living beings and inanimate objects, the mystery of landscape or the familiar domesticity of a still life: these themes have always absorbed him.

Although painting is his major art, the universality of his genius extends to sculpture, drawing, etching and ceramics, murals and designs for the theatre, poetry, the writing of plays and the cinema. Picasso looks at the world with new vision, and by his art he enables us to do likewise.

Roland Penrose

Tate Britain

London SW1P 4RG
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6 July – 18 September 1960

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