Pablo Picasso is of course an artist who needs no introduction, having had his greatness rammed down our throats since those very first, finger-paint fuelled, art classes. His immense stylistic range, from neo-classicalism to impressionism and cubism, rightfully makes him one of the most influential and famous artists of the 20th century. His works have inspired a vast number of artists and artistic movements, both during his life and beyond.
The current exhibition at Tate Britain examines his role and influence in the shaping of modern British art. Exploring both his time in Britain and the effect of his work on British art, the collection is a fantastic overview of the importance of this artist’s work. Some lesser known aspects of Picasso’s work are expounded, such as his involvement with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, for which he designed sets and costumes. Works purchased by the famous economist John Maynard Keynes and other members of the Bloomsbury group are on display alongside his 1913 piece entitled Head, which was selected by Andre Breton to be shown at the second International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936.
Picasso’s journey from the avant-garde fringes of the art world to a position of cultural normality is followed with curatorial brilliance. His impression upon artists such as Francis Bacon, Wyndham Lewis and David Hockney is demonstrated with clarity as their works are displayed alongside each other, allowing for the lines of influence to be followed with ease and opening up the narratives of art history, even to those with the most minimal knowledge of the subject.
Picasso and Modern British Art runs until July 15th at Tate Britain. Standard admission is £14.
Words – Toby Austin Locke