Ceramics

Picasso’s ceramics illustrates the idea that it is never too late for a creative person. Picasso became interested in the new technique at the age when other people make their wills. He was over 60. Picasso’s turning to natural materials was a kind of searching for ways to ceramics. He perceived quite habitual objects as a ground for his creative experiments: that is how engraved pebbles (which were picked on the beaches of Golfe Juan and Antibes) appeared.

What catalyzed the turn to the new occupation was a visit to a pottery fair in the small town of Vallauris, as Picasso spent the summer of 1946 nearby, in Golfe Juan. At the fair potteries traditionally opened their doors for everybody. Picasso seized the occasion and sculpted a couple of small figures in Suzanne and George Ramié’s pottery. A year later, at the next fair, the artist continued his experiments with clay and became keen on it for 15 years. The artist was given a place in the same pottery called Madoura and started creating his ceramic items. Apart from an opportunity to apply his talent in an unusual way, the pottery provided the artist with another novelty: acquaintance with his future second wife Jacqueline Rock who worked there as an assistant.

Picasso tackled the new occupation with youth-like enthusiasm. Having studied the technological process and properties of materials (porcelain, Delf ware, terra cotta, maiolica) used in the pottery, he transformed the craft into art with the power of his talent.

Three-Dimensional Ceramics

In three-dimensional ceramics, while creating household utility items, the artist did not use a pottery wheel, and his vases and bowls fascinate by their irregularity which brings them closer to sculpture. Picasso’s three-dimensional ceramics mainly refers to the animalistic genre. His favourite owls with human faces (an owlet and a goat were the artist’s pets at that time) prevail among the characters: “Wood, Owl, Woman” (1953).

Human images most often appear as a jar or a vase (“Woman” (1955)). Picasso found it amusing to “cross” such an ordinary item as a vase with quite different objects. This resulted in creating some “shapeshifters”: a bird vase, a face vase, a woman vase or a bull vase.

Flat Ceramics

Flat ceramics in Picasso’s interpretation is something like a picture in a frame: a vast area for painting and graphics is provided by dishes, tables and flat bottomed bowls. Flat works were created step-by-step. First, a pattern was deeply cut on a plaster cast. Then, some wet ceramic mixture was placed on this matrix. After drying, the printed image was removed from the plaster model. The composition could be left as bisque (unpainted porcelain) — “Rider” (1956) or it could be painted — “Coloured Bird” (1947). Picasso often used both ways, like in “Studio Corner” (1956). Glazing and baking were the last phase.

Ceramics by Picasso is the first experience of mass-production, yet designer ceramics. Like engravings, there a few identical original copies here. During the casting phase, a stamp was made on the reverse side of the item bottom: “empreinte ceramique originale de Picasso”.

The artist organized so called Edition Picassо – “Madoura” where ceramics was replicated in amounts specified by the master, sometimes there could be hundreds of copies. When inventory of Picasso’s heritage was made, 2880 ceramic items were registered. It is due the great number of ceramic items that they are more affordable for art collectors, along with graphics.

It is notable that even viewers actively renouncing the master’s painting which is incomprehensible for them, are not able to impute anything negative to his ceramics. Here, his unwillingness to servilely copy reality is forgiven by the audience, though the same recurring themes migrated to it: the artist and his model, bullfight (“Picador” (1953)), mythology and women’s images.

The matter is that other standards have been set for decorative and applied arts since ancient times. Conditionality and stylization of its decoration came from the depth of the centuries when a prehistoric potter made lines and spots on the clay surface. Besides, Picasso’s ceramics is cheerful in its mood. The discordances typical of many paintings were not implemented in it.

Pablo Picasso. Picador, 1953
Picador, 1953
Pablo Picasso. The Owl, 1968
The Owl, 1968

All artworks by years