To know modern art is to know Pablo Picasso, who impacted the course of 20th-century art with an almost unmatched magnitude. Throughout the prolific stream of works that issued from his studio, he did away with traditional artistic conventions and upended notions of what a work of art was supposed to look like. Among his output of more than 20,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, theater sets, and costume designs are a range of ceramics and prints, embedded with his iconic imagery and motifs. A selection of these works are currently on view in “Pablo Picasso: Ceramics & Prints,” an elegant exhibition at Galerie Koch in Hannover, Germany.
Among the prints included in the exhibition is Femme au Fauteuil No. 1 (1948), a black-and-white lithograph featuring a seated woman rendered in a flat composition with a playful use of figure and ground. She is dressed in regal garb, including a coat with ermine trim, and her face, a classic Picasso construction, is an intriguing collection of thick lines and organic shapes. In contrast, Portrait de jeune fille (1964), an etching employing an intricate network of lines to form the head of a young man, presents depth and dimension, representing the curve of the man’s face and Picasso’s classic tendency to portray the body from multiple points of view.Among a selection of ceramic works are several generously sized plates and delightful vessels through which Picasso’s vision and energy shine through. In Petite Visage No. 12 (1963) a smiling, almost leonine visage is painted at the center, surrounded by six fat, radiant brushstrokes in blue and white, touched with gold. Taureau sous l’Arbre (plate) (1952) is painted in tones of gray and centers upon a lone bull, in profile beneath a tree, recalling Picasso’s countless studies of bulls and bullfighting. Petite chouette (1949) is a round cream-colored pitcher featuring blue designs including an owls, and marks where the artist carved designs out of the clay. In Joueur de flûte (1951) and Bouquet à la pomme (1956) Picasso applied raised designs with simple brushstrokes and swathes of glaze onto the plate forms, featuring a flute player in the wilderness and a simple still life, respectively. If these seem like unexpected subjects to be gracing plates and vessels, then that’s as it should be. After all, as Picasso once explained: “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”