Chicago | Los Angeles | Miami | New York | San Francisco | Santa Fe
Amsterdam | Berlin | Brussels | London | Paris | São Paulo | Toronto | China | India | Worldwide
Group Exhibition
Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG, United Kingdom
February 15, 2012 - July 15, 2012

by Phoebe Adler

Picasso’s influence upon Modern art is something that goes without saying, the impact of his career not only visible throughout the Modern period, but continuing well into the Contemporary. Tate Britain’s current exhibition Picasso and Modern British Art is a carefully considered look at how the late artist came to shape British art, presenting works by the artist shown and collected in Britain, interwoven with studies on how he came to influence the work of seven of the country’s best-known and celebrated artists. 

To gather such a wide-range of Picasso’s work under one roof is where this exhibition really succeeds. The Tate has brought together a vast number of the artist’s paintings, drawings and sculptures from his earlier neoclassical output through to the cubist work for which he is famed, giving the viewer a chance to see such well-known pieces as Nude Woman in a Red Armchair, 1932, and The Three Dancers, 1925—the latter of which is celebrated, somewhat ceremoniously, in the last room of the exhibition, where it hangs alone in appreciation of Picasso selling the second of his most personally favoured works directly to a gallery for the first time (the first, Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, long being displayed at MoMA). Even the inclusion of ephemera such as the invitation to the Private View of the 1937 Tate exhibition Drawings and Paintings by Picasso are a welcome and entertaining aspect, providing an interesting sense of continuity, whilst also highlighting the role of the gallery itself in the artist’s relationship with Britain. 

Pablo Picasso, Bathers at the beach hut, 1929; Courtesy Musee Picasso, Paris © Succession Picasso/DACS 2011© RMN / Renee-Gabriel Ojeda


The one room of Picasso’s own work that felt at odds with the rest of the exhibition, however, was Picasso in Britain 1919, which presented his work with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes. Whilst interesting in its own right, the work—including photographs and costume designs—felt disjointed, and is perhaps an example of where the Tate have over-compensated in areas of the curation in providing a link between the artist and Britain.

Running in conjunction with the chronological display of Picasso’s own work is what the exhibition sets out to do from the outset—to show how Picasso helped mould Modern British art through the work of a selection of artists: Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and David Hockney.  Each artist has been dedicated a space within which a comparative study is made between their work and Picasso’s; some reveal surprising similarity that you wonder why you hadn’t noticed before—such as Moore’s Reclining Figure, 1936, and Picasso’s The Source, 1921, while for others, in particular Hockney, the links are key to understanding many of his works on display. There are on occasion, however, moments where you are left wondering why a connection needs to be made, and whether a connection is actually evident—as with the work of Bacon, for example.

Francis Bacon, Crucifixion,1933, Courtesy Murderme, © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2011.

Picasso clearly had a huge influence upon Modern art and this is a connection that has rightly been celebrated by Tate Britain. It could on the one hand be argued that this exhibition might have been executed with a more subtle approach to the subject matter -- and perhaps fewer examples of where Picasso’s influence might be present in the other artists’ work, the different approaches at times appearing confused. Yet on the other, the collection of work on display is so impressive that this is something that can ultimately be overlooked, the detailed and fascinating study of a lifetime’s work of one of the world’s greatest Modern artists, in particular, making it more than worthy of a look.

--Phoebe Adler


(Image on top: Pablo Picasso, Still life with Mandolin, 1924, Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; © Succession Picasso/DACS 2011)

Posted by Phoebe Adler on 2/24/12 | tags: modern surrealism

Related articles:

Placeholder70x70-2 Picasso's (Hyperbole) life long connection with Britain
You Phoebe defend "Tate Britain"with Hockney's and Ben Nicholson's connection with Picasso. Why has the Tate dragged all Brits in to their equation? Why was it not a Piccaso and Hockney show? (The H y p e r b o l e Collection) TATE BRITAIN PRESS RELEASE:This year Tate Britain stages the first exhibition to explore Pablo Picasso’s lifelong connections with Britain:While many British artists have responded to Picasso’s influence, those represented in this exhibition have been selected to illustrate both the variety and vitality of these responses over a period of more than seventy years. This is a rare opportunity to see such work alongside those works by Picasso that, in many cases, are documented as having made a particular impact on the artist concerned; in other cases, they have been chosen as excellent examples of a stylistic affinity between Picasso and the relevant British artist...... Review: Picasso & Modern British Art - Tate Britain By Philippa Warr, Feb 17, 2012 He was also familiar with a great number of British artists through reproductions - you can see echoes of pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne Jones in Picasso's Blue period paintings, for example. But while Picasso would not have left England without having at least looked around him, his single summer in this country was a mere drop in the ocean of external influences on his work, dwarfed by his time spent in France and his strong ties to his homeland of Spain... This lack of a particular connection with Britain from Picasso's end is evident... Ultimately (and despite the hugely enjoyable presence of the sixty or so Picassos), if good artists borrow and great artists steal, this show involves a disappointing level of borrowing and not enough stealing. Picasso & Modern British Art is suffused with the feeling that we as a nation have a massive cultural teenage crush on Picasso and he was simply not that bothered.
Placeholder70x70-2 The big shrinking picture
From ‘THE UPCOMING' Picasso & Modern British Art: Warning! This is not a retrospective. Picasso’s. The Three Dancers finishes the exhibition. In a room of its own, with upraised arms, virulent and grotesque, this masterpiece celebrates everything this show has been about: the performance, the decorative, the merging of multiple techniques and the new language found in the breaking of reality and tradition. It’s all here, in one work, by one artist. This is the Tate Britain saying thank you to the man who inspired a century of British artists. The way I see it Phoebe is: The big shrinking picture is Picasso as the main big international artist and the British’s artists are smaller regional reflections of him. Sorry to say Tate Britain is belittling the Brits and ‘Yes’ shrinking them all in one (show) go.
I agree with what you say to an extent-Picasso-ish art doesn't automatically make it art inspired by Picasso and maybe this does not need to be made so obvious. But when artists are directly referencing Picasso within their work, such as Hockney with his photo montages or Ben Nicholson who depicted stringed instruments much like Picasso then surely this is a direct influence? For me the connections such as this within the exhibition made it work. Others not so much.
Placeholder70x70-2 One artist’s insight is worth a thousand art critic nightmares.
Real artists are inspired to make art from their soul. Did these British artists (in question) ever mention, imply or ever say they were inspired by Picasso ? Great for them if they say that they were inspired by Picasso does it not? Has it bettered their careers to say they did ? Yes it has! Picasso-ish art doesn’t automatically make it art inspired by Picasso. The source of the inspiration could be similar. If I am wrong then all African artists have been inspired by Picasso’s art because it is Picasso-ish! Who is to say that two artists cannot be inspired by the same thing. How many different artists have been inspired by the same muse such as Marilyn Monroe. To find something I agree on Phoebe is still work in progress ...
Yes i agree Picasso was influenced by African art but he also greatly influenced British art. The Tate celebrating this with this exhibition is surely a good thing and i would not say they are acting like "vultures" by doing so. "Goes without saying" is an idiomatic phrase not a literal one and i stand by my use of this. I agree with Cummings' article, in particular reference to Bacon, but i think the referencing of Picasso's work within the work of artist's such as Moore and (in particular) Hockney are (as i mentioned) key to understanding the works, and this is where Picasso's influence can obviously be viewed and where the Tate has succeeded with their brief. Perhaps these works are where the exhibition should have been left rather than delving into others less obvious. I would like to know what you agree with as opposed to what you disagree with....

Copyright © 2006-2013 by ArtSlant, Inc. All images and content remain the © of their rightful owners.