The Museum of Cycladic Art curated a very special show last year. Work by Picasso, including mainly ceramics and works on paper were exhibited alongside Greek antiquities demonstrating the profound influence that Greek antiquity had on Picasso’s work. From fantastical themes that clearly evoked Picasso’s imagination, such as minotaurs and centaurs, to every day subjects and the manner in which he brought them to life via his art, such as pigeons, fish, and goats. There were also examples of specific compositions and forms where he clearly drew from examples in antiquity. In these instances he was attracted to both simplification in form, (eg: the female, human form seen in terracottas) and examples where there is a great deal of intricacy in composition (eg: an abduction scene in mythology on a bronze).
Picasso’s ceramics display a side of his creativity where one could argue he is at his best. I find him completely playful and inventive when I experience his ceramics, not only in the freshness and boldness with which he models forms but in his depictive design. For example, the way he paints one part of an animal so it is designed as an invert to another part, using the simplest of design components: dashes, dots, bold lines and so on. The use of a limited colour palette, of often no more than three colours. Thus, using limited design components as parameters to see how inventive he can be within these parameters. Much of this of course we see in the Greek examples. What cannot be ignored though, as something you see only in the Picassos, in an extreme sense of confidence and boldness. His work is commanding in a way that is unique to him.
The exhibition was immaculately and attentively executed and clearly comprehensively researched. I was very impressed.