Pablo Picasso’s prolonged engagement with paper is the subject of the groundbreaking exhibition Picasso and Paper, organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in collaboration with the Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Featuring nearly 300 works spanning the artist’s entire career, Picasso on Paper offers new insights into Picasso’s creative spirit and working methods. Nowhere is Picasso’s protean spirit more evident than in his relentless exploration of working on and with paper. He drew incessantly, using many different media—including watercolor, pastel, and gouache—on a broad range of papers. He assembled collages of cut-and-pasted papers; created sculptures from pieces of torn and burnt paper; produced both documentary photographs and manipulated photographs on paper; and spent decades investigating an array of printmaking techniques on paper supports.
Among the exhibition highlights are Femmes à leur toilette (1937–38, Musée national Picasso-Paris), an extraordinary collage (14 1/2 feet wide) of cut-and-pasted papers; outstanding Cubist papiers collés; sketchbooks from the artist’s early to late years, including studies for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; and constructed paper guitars from the Cubist and Surrealist periods. Visitors will also discover collaborative photograms made with Dora Maar and André Villers, illustrated books, and drawings on a vast range of materials, including newspaper, envelopes, antique laid papers, and personal ephemera.
Presented in a series of chronologically unfolding themes, the works are displayed together with closely related paintings and sculptures to provide a deeper context for understanding their meaning and historical position in Picasso’s art. For example, Picasso’s preparatory studies for his Blue Period masterpiece, La Vie (Life) of 1903 (Cleveland Museum of Art), are presented together with the painting and other works exploring corresponding themes of poverty, despair, and social alienation. In the Cubist section, Picasso’s drawings for Head of a Woman (Fernande) of 1909 (Musée national Picasso-Paris) are joined by the associated bronze sculpture. Newly restored drawings made with colored, felt-tip pens on newsprint for the film Le Mystère Picasso are shown together with the film.
The exhibition is curated by William H. Robinson of the Cleveland Museum of Art; Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts, London; and Emilia Philippot of the Musée national Picasso-Paris.
Picasso and Paper is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Royal Academy of Arts. It features essays by distinguished Picasso scholars and leading authorities in various aspects of technical art history, including William H. Robinson of the Cleveland Museum of Art; Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts; Emilia Philippot of the Musée national Picasso-Paris; and Claustre Rafart Planas of the Museu Picasso, Barcelona. Specific aspects of Picasso’s engagement with paper are addressed by Christopher Lloyd, an expert on Picasso’s drawings; Stephen Coppel, curator of prints and drawings at the British Museum; Violette Andres, photography curator at the Musée national Picasso-Paris; Johan Popelard of the University of Paris; and Emmanuelle Hincelin, a paper conservator with scientific expertise in the types of paper Picasso used at key moments in his career.