There a number of big shows in London at the moment. This is one at the National Portrait Gallery until the new year. Picasso is always going to bring in the punters but is it a good show? The pictures are from the NPG website.
There is also the downright rude, a sketch of one of Picasso's friends being pleasured by a naked drunk prostitute being the foremost example of this.
These niggles aside there was much here I liked and much I did not know. For example how caricature played a prominent part in Picasso's early life the humorous mustachioed gentleman on the below left being one such. It is a tiny tiny sketch but I am glad I saw it. The exhibition then neatly demonstrates how this then ledt to much more abstracted portraits like the one on the right where, like with charicature features but also themes of the personality of the sitter in question are exaggerated. Can you spot the wrist watch? He was a punctilious gentlemant apprently.
Being an unecessarily talented fellow Picasso also found time to knock out the odd sculpture. The one below left being of another paramour of his Dora Mare. The various crossing lovers of Picasso can make the timeline rather confusing but I wasn't particularly interested in the history I have to say but rather the product. In this sculpture I like the bulbous nature of the work itself but also the melting waxy quality he has given the base, as though the piece perhaps at one time looked different but has wilted under the sun.
My favourite piece in the whole show and one I kept on coming back to time and time again was the one below right which is called Portrait of Jaqueline in a black shawl. Like many of Picasso's painting it gives the impression of being painted in an enormous hurry which in this case give the thing a dark energy. He has also carried over something that, if you go, you will see in some of the earlier rooms in painting of his male friends, that of this devilsh palid skin. What, for me makes this piece most effective is the strong contrast between the two halves of the face (set off by the alternating contrast in the background) and also the strange reddis tinge to the right side of the face. This it seems to me is a woman of great mistery and power.
This show then lacks a little bit of the wow factor that other Picasso shows I have seen. There are some forgettable things here but there are also some gems and, like all good shows, some gems you probably won't have seen before.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.