Thursday 7 September 2023

Picasso - Lithographs and Ceramics

Memories Steeped in Dreams: Lithographs, at the Basil and Elisa Goulandris Foundation Museum.

Ninety lithographs, engravings and ceramics from the collection of the Foundation, eight artists. Each post will cover one artist.  In this post, Pablo Picasso. 

Picasso was notorious for his proclivity for experimentation. No technique, no medium, no form of artistic expression was alien to him. He painted, drew, sculpted, wrote, took photographs, designed stage sets and conceived of innovative ceramics.

Unfortunately, the lighting in the galleries was not condusive to taking photographs and the quality of what I took is appalling, but I nevertheless wanted to have a record of this.


In 1946 Picasso visited the annual exhibition of Vallauris potters and there he discovered the on-going practice of a centuries-old tradition of producing kitchen pottery. At the fair he also met Suzanne and Georges Ramie, the owners of the Madoura Pottery, a ceramic factory located close by. This encounter was critical for Picasso, who did not wait long before asking Suzanne to teach him the traditional methods for firing and glazing pottery. In 1947 he advanced his involvement in this new artistic medium to the point of moving to Vallauris. With his characteristic insatiable thirst for work, Picasso would go on to realise in the span of 30 years more than 3,500 original works in clay and would not hesitate to call ceramics 'painting unreservedly'.

Picasso's pottery practice might seem at first to some like a pleasant escape from the worries of painting. Yet, that was hardly the case. Like painting, sculpture and engraving, ceramics allowed him to experiment and create with genuine joy that was ceaselessly revitalised. It also delighted him to break the various conventions potters had observed for centuries using completely unusual supports, experimenting with enamel and painting on clay, making increasingly more eccentric shapes that his circle of friends often predicted would break in the kiln. He approached each stage with the same energy: moulding, assembling, stamping, casting and carving in both low and high relief. The result was the very image of his art: exuberant, overabundant, fanciful, brilliant.

Gothic Pitcher with Leaves, 1952, (painted and engraved white earthenware, glazed in the interior)

Still Life with Spoon, 1952, (partially glazed ceramics plate)

Woman's Head with Crown of Flowers, 1964, (partially glazed terracotta plaque)


Picasso was keenly interested in printmaking and trained himself in all the different printing techniques: engraving with burin, etching dry point aquatint, linocut, lithography. His first engraving dates back to 1899, when he was just 17 years old; his last lithograph dates to 1973, that is a few weeks before his death at the age of 92. In more than seven decades the artist created almost 2,400 prints.

Of all the printing techniques his favourite was undoubtedly lithography that he discovered and perfected beside the master printer Fernand Mourlot, whom he met in November 1945. Mourlot recalls: 'For nearly four months, from nine in the morning until eight at night, and sometimes later, Pablo would abandon himself to the joys of lithography. On paper, zinc, stone he took the medium to its furthest ends'.

Flying Dove, 1961, (coloured lithograph on Arches paper)

Picasso's father taught him to draw when he was a little boy, mainly using tamed pigeons for models. Unsurprisingly his first works were of this subject. In 1949 he designed a poster for the World Congress for Partisans of Peace that drew inspiration from the biblical legend of Noah's Ark. For many years to come he continued to draw doves as bringing good news, peace and harmony. The United Nationals adopted these drawings as their official peace emblem in the mid-1970s.

Bust with Checked Bodice

Profile of Woman (Jacqueline), 1969, (offset lithograph heightened with red pencil)

Basil and Elise Goulandris met Picasso on April 1, 1970. He gave them this signed and dated poster representing his favourite model at the time, his wife Jacqueline.

Painter and Model in an Armchair, 1963, (linocut with Indian ink and gouache on Arches paper)



  1. Thanks for this post. I wasn't aware that Picasso did any ceramics. That pitcher is lovely.
    Did the pottery school sell his ceramics to people? It's nice to see them in a gallery, but I think it's kind of exciting that people were pouring milk and stuff with his art over breakfast.
    Also, the photos are actually quite good. It annoys me too when a gallery has a thick pane of glass and the lighting is positioned in such a way to be in the photo. bARHH.

  2. Thanks Liam, and thanks for your comment about the photos, I get so frustrated....
    Some of Picasso's ceramics are fabulous, quite extraordinary, and you might have guessed by now that ceramics are my passion. As for people using them as functional objects, yes, quite a thought.