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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yo Picasso

The Yo Picasso. Self-Portraits catalog
features preparatory sketches for a 1906 self-portrait.
Self-portrait (Yo), 1901,
Pablo Picasso
I seldom write regarding ongoing art exhibitions for the simple reason I've mentioned before, I like my ruminations to have a shelf-life of more than a few months. I made an exception recently in covering the "Manet Returns to Venice" (07-04-13) show I took in at the Ducal Palace in Venice. I'm about to make another exception for the current exhibition of Picasso's self-portraits at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. The show is titled "Yo Picasso. Self-portraits" My excuse this time...hey, it is Picasso, after all. The title of the show is derived from a 1901 blue period portrait titled Self-portrait: Yo Picas-so, which sold in 1989 for $47.9-million. Ironically, that painting is not among those in the show (it's now displayed in Zurich). However, a similar painting from the same year, with a similar title, Self-portrait (Yo), is on displayed (left).
Self-portrait with a Relative, 1895,
Pablo Picasso

Each portrait in the show is carefully dated, from the first, the mysterious Self-portrait with a Relative (right, possibly his father or an uncle) from 1895, to his last, pencil and crayon self-portrait in 1972 just months before his death (bottom). His first is a strangely composed, possibly unfinished, portrait of an older, very dignified gentleman with a mustache to which Picasso seems to have amended a highly finished image of himself in the upper left quadrant facing the opposite direction. The self-portrait seems to have been an afterthought. Born in 1881, Picasso would have been a mere boy of fourteen at the time.

Self-portrait with a Palette, 1906,
Pablo Picasso. The preparatory
sketches (top) were for this painting.
It's no secret young Pablo Picasso was a child prodigy. That, coupled with the fact his father was also an artist and his teacher during the all-important formative years, easily accounts for his impressive skills as a teenager. They do not, however, account for his rise to fame in pre-WW I Paris or the tremendous influence he came to exert upon the art of the 20th century. One of the difficulties in studying Picasso's influence and his work as a whole is the simple fact there's so damned much of it. He may well have been the most productive artist of all time. The "Yo Picasso" show allows us to abbreviate Picasso's ongoing development as an artist over a period nearly eighty years through the vehicle of his deeply insightful self-portraits.

Self-portrait, 1907, Pablo Picasso,
a radical departure from the 1906
painting (above, left) reflects his
earliest involvement with Cubism.
If you're planning a trip to Barcelona, you might want to move it up to within the next few weeks. The show closes September 1, 2013. Otherwise, you can gain some feeling for this man's self-important image and its reflection of how the prodigious young Pablo became an artistic legend in his own time and in his own mind by visiting the online version, Yo Picasso. Self-Portraits.

Picasso's final self-portrait, June 30, 1972. He died April 8, 1973.

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