This week I visited the Picasso: Peace and Freedom exhibition at the Tate in Liverpool. The first thing I learnt was that Picassso died a year after I was born – I’m ashamed to say I had no idea he lived so recently. I guess I’d placed him around the same time as Monet, Renoir, Manet, Van Gogh and Degas in the mid-late nineteenth century. In fact I’m surprised to find out that Monet, Renoir and Degas made it through to the twentieth century. Clearly I never studied art history… I’ve always been interested in the different techniques and styles just never the history bit.
The second thing I learnt was that Picasso was quite a political artist. The exhibition charts his work through various series of paintings starting in 1937 with his comment of the Cold War through to 1962 and the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. What struck me walking around was the difference in styles that he worked in. In the beginning it was fairly simple geometric shapes using painted outlines filled in with intense, vibrant colours – these were my favourites. Although some of them had very strange subject matters; leeks and skulls for one and a live lobster and feral cat having a face-off for another! I’m sure they all have a hidden narrative but I prefer to appreciate them at face value – I like colours, shapes and textures. I never got on with English Literature at school – did people really write so many hidden meanings in to their texts. Amazing.
Anyway I digress, later came the more sketchy style typical of the Dove of Peace which was chosen by the poet Louis Aragon to feature on the poster for the World Peace Congress in Paris 1949. Paloma Picasso, his daughter, was born on the eve of the Paris Peace Congress and poignantly named after the Spanish word for Dove. Paloma is now a renowned French/Spanish fashion designer best known for her perfumes and jewellery designs – check out Tiffany’s if you fancy a bit of gorgeousness!
I wasn’t so keen on the more recent of his paintings, whilst more typical of the style I associate with the name Picasso; body parts appearing where anatomically they never should, they seemed to have lost something. The exhibition ended with a a series called Mothers and Musketeers – I did like the musketeers, some of the humour seemed to have re-surfaced in these paintings!
Picasso: Peace + Freedom is on at the Tate Liverpool from 21st May – 30 August 2010.