By Shannon Ryan

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

He was exacting, complex and competitive – notoriously sarcastic and sole beneficiary to mass media attention that endlessly analyzed his work. A man deemed excessive, his attitude toward women considered passionate yet contemptuous.

The luminary mystique surrounding Pablo Picasso remains pervasive. He owned the art world and that world’s gaze was firmly fixed upon this multi faceted human being who freely walked alongside controversy, creating prodigious work that incited, inspired and influenced 20th century art.

Eighty pieces of ceramics, largely owned by members of the Picasso family and private collectors and never previously exhibited, are currently on tour and available for viewing at the University of Toronto Arts Centre through January.

Presenting both Picasso’s love of the clay medium as well as a vignette into his life during this period, this exhibit opens itself to art critics, fans and beginners alike.

The presentation is further enhanced with additional pieces of Picasso’s extraordinary works; on loan from the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée Picasso in Antibes and the Museu de Ceramica in Barcelona.

“Picasso and Ceramics” is an ambitious presentation organized by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in partnership with the University of Toronto Art Centre, with the generous support of Desjardins and curator Leopold Foulem. Following its run in Toronto the exhibitions next stop will be France, where it will be at the Musée Picasso, Antibes.

Picasso’s father, José Ruiz Blasco, a painter and professor of art, undoubtedly influenced Picasso’s entry into the art world, although he was quickly surpassed by his prodigious son who was reputed as once having said, “In art, one has to kill one’s father.” Growing up in an artistic environment, Picasso’s father taught him the basics of formal artistic training–figure drawing and painting in oil, during his childhood. He also attended art schools in Madrid in Barcelona, but did not complete his college level studies, instead turning to independent art.

Pablo Picasso frequently immersed himself in the ceramic medium at the height of his career, and created an estimated 4,500 pieces of innovative functional ceramics over a twenty-year period.

Endlessly and seemingly effortlessly, Picasso embraced a variety of styles and elements, exploring, manipulating and pushing different mediums to their limit. Picasso chose to explore ceramics at the latter part of his career, his interest piqued after meeting Georges and Suzanne Ramie, owners of Madoura pottery workshop in Vallauris, Southern France at a craft fair in 1946.


Rounding out this captivating exhibition are examples of historic pottery that served as Picasso’s inspiration; posters he designed for potter’s exhibitions in Vallauris, books he was reading at the time, as well as preparatory sketches and photographs of the artist working with this medium.

The pieces themselves are witty and imaginative in their simplicity; Pablo Picasso’s work in ceramics was an all encompassing and ambitious undertaking. A once in a lifetime opportunity to view one of Picasso’s alternative mediums right here at home, this is surely an exhibit to be enjoyed by the connoisseur, the novice and the simply curious.

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