Q&A with the Curator of Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901
13 February 2013 by Hannah
Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 opens on 14 February 2013 and tells the story of Pablo Picasso’s breakthrough year as an artist – 1901. This was the year that the 19-year-old launched his career with an exhibition that would set him on course to become one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
Exhibition curator, Dr Barnaby Wright, tells us more.
What is so special about Picasso’s art in 1901 that it deserves a whole exhibition?
1901 is the year in which Picasso first finds his voice as an artist and launches his career in Paris.
It’s a remarkable year of artistic development and self-discovery for the nineteen-year-old artist, who was brimming with ambition. By just focusing on this one year we can see clearly various aspects of his art beginning to crystallise.
It’s thrilling to experience his work on the threshold of his rise to fame as one of the most celebrated artists of all time.
How long have you been working on Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901?
We have been planning the exhibition for about three years, securing loans from around the world and researching and writing the catalogue.
There is so much to discover about just this one year of Picasso’s work that even three years isn’t enough!
What can the public expect from this exhibition?
Expect to see an extraordinary group of some of Picasso’s most important early paintings, most of which have never been seen in the UK before. Some will be familiar and some unexpected.
All of them convey the young Picasso’s insatiable appetite for new ways of painting and new forms of self-expression.
What is your favourite painting in the exhibition, and why?
It’s very difficult to choose. I am particularly drawn to Dwarf-Dancer because it’s such a knock-out – bold, daring, self-confident and provocative.
Harlequin and Companion is a stunning example of the new style Picasso developed later in 1901 and sees him beginning to play with narrative and symbolism in mischievously creative ways.
But then Child with a Dove has a special appeal for me because I had a poster of it on my bedroom wall as a child, so it was the first painting I ever saw. I grew up with it.
Ok that’s three… how many am I allowed?
What has been the most challenging aspect of curating this show?
Negotiating the loans of the paintings has been demanding – after all which museum or private collector would want to be parted from such fantastic Picassos?
I think we have been persuasive in convincing owners of the importance of the exhibition as almost everything we wanted is coming to us.
I think that their generosity will be more than repaid when they see them all brought together.
What are you most looking forward to about the opening of the exhibition?
Having spent a long time working on this project with a small group of colleagues what I’m really looking forward to is sharing the exhibition with all those who come to see it and getting their responses to the paintings and to the show itself – that’s when things get really interesting.
What’s next at The Courtauld?
Gauguin was one of Picasso’s inspirations in 1901 and his example helped to change the course of Picasso’s art that year. So it is fortunate that following this exhibition we will have a Summer Showcase display, Collecting Gauguin: Samuel Courtauld in the 20s.
It is being curated by my colleague Karen Serres and will offer an in-depth look at some remarkable works by Gauguin – the sort of thing that fired the young Picasso’s creative imagination in 1901.
Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901 runs from 14 February – 26 May 2013.
We’d love to know what you think.
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