Pablo Picasso Nude Woman in a Red Armchair 1932

Pablo Picasso, Nude Woman in a Red Armchair 1932 
© Succession Picasso / DACS 2011

Picasso’s reputation in Britain was slow to recover its pre-war promise. An exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1921 attracted some positive reviews but much negative coverage, and was a commercial disaster. This contrasted with an exhibition the previous year of the other leading Parisian modernist Henri Matisse. Picasso’s dealer Léonce Rosenberg compared conservative London collectors unfavourably with those in smaller towns in continental Europe and in America. It was a decade before London had another Picasso exhibition. 

Despite fears that London remained unready for Picasso, dealers Alex Read & Lefevre mounted a show in 1931 which included major works ranging from the ‘Blue Period’ La Vie 1903, to Picasso’s latest output. His first full retrospective, which several British artists saw, was held at Paris’s Galerie Georges Petit the following year.

Picasso’s reputation and visibility in Britain grew through the 1930s. Galleries presented his work and through them and important Parisian magazines like Cahiers d’Art, Minotaure and Documents, British audiences learned of his latest developments. More people collected his work and by the end of the decade (and the outbreak of another war) there were several important British collections of Picasso’s art, notably those of Douglas Cooper, Roland Penrose and Hugh Willoughby.