Picasso and the Mediterranean mood

Looking at the exclusive family-owned collection of his paintings, sculptures and drawings exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery this summer, it is wonderful to be reminded how irrelevant age is to one’s imagination and creativity. That flamboyant body of work was what Picasso, in his 60s, created in the Mediterranean.

The colourful ceramics featured in the show take on such life, such wonderful energy, be it a starry night in the ceramics town of Vallarius, a broad smiling face, or the impregnated strength of a centaur. Even a door becomes hugely interesting (anatomie feminine), serving as a new dimension for practice and self-expression, a challenging canvas. In a well-paced sequence, the substantial collection of artworks is united in one flamboyant, self-assured Mediterranean mood.

I am particularly pleased with his portraits. Curiously, the charcoal tones and broad cubist brushstrokes combine to yield a most abstract yet realistic impression of a child. The lack of facial features gives such room, such appetite for the imagination, while the angular silhouette brings out the naivete of the child.


In Picasso’s drawings, masks and cutout animal figures, I admire the confidence in his art. His exaggerated approach in abstract cubism might have helped to give his work a more striking edge, but what marks his work is his confidence and the scale of vision. You can feel behind those paintings and sculptures the presence of an artist with a triumphant smile or an irreverent scowl, even in the smaller cardboard pieces and cutouts. He is able to hammer out with precision and humour the bulging muscles and terrific body build of swimmers on the beach, and at the same time express the refined, subtle grace of a woman caught unawares (femme a la robe verte 1956).

Adrian Searle of the Guardian has described the exhibition as ‘overwhelmingly beautiful’, delighting in the range of objects and artwork that combine to reveal the mythic quality of Picasso’s work (Read more). It is not an overstatement. Roberta Smith’s review on Gagosian’s show in New York Times reminds us that this late Picasso is an artist who works in relative isolation during his Mediterranean decade (Read more). One tends to think that people grow more conservative with age. From his paintings and sculptures, I realise that age is rather the true liberation, a breaking free of prejudices and fixtures, a graduation into undeterred stylistic confidence.