Saturday, 31 August 2019

Picasso and Antiquity - Line and Clay


'To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was'. Marius de Zayas, Picasso Speaks.




Picasso and Antiquity - Line and Clay


at the Cycladic Museum, Athens.

Sixty eight ceramics and drawings by Picasso interact with sixty seven ancient works in this exhibition which is part of the Cycladic Museum's Divine Dialogues series.
This is what the curator of the exhibition says:
'Throughout his long and productive career, Picasso looked at a wide variety of sources, adapting and transforming them relentlessly. The classical tradition provided him with a vocabulary of endless possibilities to be manipulated and modified. Prominent among these sources was ancient Greece, for it created an enduring mythology as well as a fertile iconography.

Picasso's work articulates Nietzsche's famous tension between the Apollonian and the Dionysian; this is a powerful undercurrent, which can help us understand the contradictory forces at play in Picasso's work. The Apollonian emphasises nature's benevolent force, light, the linear, and the sculptural; the Dionysian, on the other hand, stems from raw animality, the unconscious, darkness and freedom. These primeval notions of the Mediterranean, of tragedy in which felicity is shadowed by death and destruction, can be seen as keys to Picasso's ambivalent relationship with classical antiquity.

The element that binds both ceramics, old and new, and Picasso's illustrations derived from the antique has to do with form and design, and not just iconography. Of particular relevance is the line, whether in drawings from the 1920s and 1930s or the lines traced on ceramics and reminiscent of Attic Red Figure vases. The line is the means to divide space and create light. What might be termed the 'stone-like clarity' of permanent, solid forms relating to the antique (the Apollonian) and the disruption of form, the line again, but oscillating and vexed, is the principal theme of this exhibition.

Picasso's inspiration from Greece, especially after the 1940s, has primarily to do with motifs and iconography. Yet, these works, unlike some earlier ones, are devoid of weighty associations with Greek myth; rather, Picasso invents a fictitious or imagined antiquity.  In the 1940s and 1950s, he develops an extraordinary body of ceramics, objects that give us a generalised idea of a mythical past, imbued with a timeless and idealised vision of Arcadia.'

This is a long post, but there are some fantastic works of art here, and I wanted to be able to remember them all. Many of Picasso's wonderful ceramics I had not seen before.





This was the first exhibit we saw as we entered the space. It somehow seemed to be fitting, given the man, and his life.





Bull's Head Rhyton, Final Palatial Period, 1450-1375 BC, (clay)










Pablo Picasso, Bull's Head, 1950 (grogged red earthenware, modelled and incised)




Statuette of Aphrodite, Roman period (mid-3rd century AD), marble





Statuette of Aphrodite, Hellenistic period (2nd century BC), (marble)




Pablo Picasso, Woman, 1949, (white earthenware, thrown, modelled and slip-painted)





Black Figure Kabirian Skyphos, classical period (last quarter of 5th BC), clay




Pablo Picasso, Etruscan Conversation, 1950, (pignate (cooking pot) in grogged red earthenware, slip-painted, interior glazed)




Attic Red Figure plate, Classical period, 400 century BC, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, Three Nudes (Three Graces, 1923, (ink on paper)




Pablo Picasso, Three Nudes, 1923, (ink on paper)





Female Figurine, final Neolithic period (c. 3200 BC), (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Tanagrea with Spiral, 1947-48, (white earthenware, slip-painted decoration)









Pablo Picasso, Woman, 1948, (white earthenware, thrown and modelled)





Figurine of Aphrodite (Venus Pudica) Roman period, 1st century AD, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Blue Dress, 1947-48, (white earthenware, thrown (assembled elements), incised, painted with slips and oxides, glazed)








Kernos Bowl, Mycenaean period, 12th century BC, (clay)







Pablo Picasso, Woman with Amphora, 1947-48, (white clay, thrown and modelled, painted decoration with slip and white enamel, incised details, patina applied after firing)




Teapot, Prepalatial period, c, 2400-2200 BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Bird, 1947-48, (white earthenware (turned, modeled with attached elements), wax resist, painted with enamel and slip, partially glazed)




Head and part of the neck of a figurine, Early Cycladic period, 2700-2400 BC, (marble)




Pablo Picasso, Gothic pitcher decorated with lilies, 1953, (wheel-made and modeled, slip-painted, incised)





Proto-Phi type female figurine, Mycenaean period, 14th century BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Draped Woman, 1951, (white earthenware, modelled, sculpted, incised and slip-painted)




Pablo Picasso, Standing Woman, 1947, (white earthenware, modelled and incised)





Female Figurines, Mycenaean period, Final Palatial Period, Old Palace/Neopalatial period, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, The King, (white earthenware)

Many works on Lysistrata formed part of the exhibition. It is not surprising that the man who was obsessed with sex, should also be obsessed with the woman who attempted to end the Peloponnesian War between Greek States by denying all the men of the land any sex. Lysistrata persuaded the women of the warring cities to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace.

I was not able to include a lot of the works here as they were drawings and reflection from glass made this impossible.




Pablo Picasso, Study for Lysistrata, (The Women's Oath), 1933, pencil on blue paper)




Pablo Picasso, Bearded Greek Dreaming of War, 1938, (etching on copper, printed on paper by the artist)






Trefoil Oenochoe (wine jug) Depicting Wild Goats running, Archaic period, 630-600 BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Vase Decorated with Goats, 1952, (original impression in white earthenware, thrown, modelled, incised and slip painted)




Pablo Picasso, Head of a Goat, 1950, (original impression in white earthenware, painted with oxides, wax resist, glazed)





Figurine of Pan, Late Hellenistic - Early Roman period, 2nd-1st century BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Seated Flute-Player, 1050, (white earthenware, cut, folded, modelled and incised)








Pablo Picasso, Seated Flute-Player, 1950, (earthenware, slip-painted)




Owl Figurine, Orientalizing period, 7th century BC, (clay)






Laconian Red Figure Pelike Depicting an Owl, Classical period, 410-400 BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Spanish Plate Decorated with an Owl, 1957, (red earthenware, slip-painted decoration)




Pablo Picasso, Owl, 1957, (Spanish plate in red earthenware, thrown, painted with oxides)






Owl Figurine, orientalising period, 7th century BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, The Owl, 1952, (white earthenware, slip-painted, partially glazed)




Pablo Picasso, Owl, 1956-57, (grogged red earthenware, slip-painted, partially glazed)







Red Figure Skyphos Depicting an Owl, Classical period, mid-5th century BC, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, Owl, 1958, (painted wood panels, assembled)





Pablo Picasso, Fish, 1951, (white earthenware, thrown, modelled, incised)





Red Figure Bell Krater with a Scene Depicting the Return from a Symposium, Classical period, 440-430 BC, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, Bacchanal, 1957, (grogged red earthenware, slip-painted, partially glazed)




Group of Male Dancer Figurines, Neoclassical period, 1650-1550 BC, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, Dancers, 1956, (original impression in white earthenware, slip and enamel painted decoration, enhanced with paraffin and oxides)




Pablo Picasso, Flute-Player and Dancer, 1947, (white earthenware, painted with enamels, glazed)





Pablo Picasso, Silenus in the Company of Dancers, 1933, (gouache and ink on paper)





Bull Figurine, Post-Palatial period, 1250-1150 BC, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, Blind Minotaur Guided by a Girl by the Sea, 1934, (pencil on paper)





Bull-Shaped Rhyton, Late Cypriot II period, 1450-1200 BC, (clay)





Pablo Picasso, Pignate (cooking pot) Decorated with a Bull and Three Running Women, 1950, (coarse red earthenware, slip-painted decoration)





Centaur Figurine, Protogeometric period, late 10th century BC, (clay)








Pablo Picasso, Winged Priapus-Centaur with Owl, 1950, (bronze, green patina)






Picasso with a wicker bull mask originally intended for bullfighters' training, he becomes a living Minotaur. Beside him a sculpture made of scrap wood with the features painted on it.








Minoraure, 1933, (front cover: Pablo Picasso)

The periodical Minotaure was founded by the Surrealists in the early 30s and Picasso illustrated the publication's first cover. He adopted the myth and imagery of the Minotaur throughout the period leading up to WWII. The Minotaur (the mythical half-beast, half-human Dionysian creature) symbolised the dark regions of the psyche, the irrational forces of war in the 30s.





Dove Figurine, Classical period, 5th century BC, (clay)




Pablo Picasso, Dove, 1953, (white earthenware, thrown, modelled, incised and slip-painted)





Pablo Picasso, Dove, 1954 




Dove Figurine, Classical period, 4th century BC, (Pentelic marble)




Pablo Picasso, Dove, 1953, (white earthenware, modelled, incised and slip painted)




Crouching Bird, 1947-48, (white earthenware, decoration slip painted and oxides)




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