07/19/12 - 0 Comments
The Vollard Suite: A Series of Spectacular Picasso Prints at London’s British Museum
Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just appreciate anything aesthetically pleasing, Pablo Picasso’s series of etchings, The Vollard Suite, at London’s British Museum, will not fail to impress. This exhibition is also making British history, since it is the first time that this complete set has been publicly shown in the county, and what’s more—it’s free!
The Vollard Suite is a collection of Picasso’s most celebrated etchings from the years 1930-37, when he was commissioned by the renowned Ambroise Vollard. Vollard, an avant-garde art dealer during Picasso’s lifetime, had also formerly supported the blossoming artist by giving him his first exhibition as a 19-year-old in Paris.
Many of the images on these plates reflects the way in which Picasso worked over the seven year span, in dramatic bursts of energy. It is not difficult to pinpoint Picasso’s influences, made evident by both the content of the etchings and the intelligent work of the curator himself, Stephen Coppel. By including a few select etchings from artists such as Rembrandt, who mastered this form of artwork, and Goya, who also recorded the evils of war, the root of Picasso’s inspiration becomes visually tangible, and places him solidly in a period of art history.
One person who features heavily in this series is Picasso’s lover and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. He had been overcome by her classical beauty two years earlier and his obsession with this young woman (she was 28 years his junior) is prevalent throughout this exhibition, as she appears in numerous prints.
On entering the exhibition, there doesn’t seem to be any initial sense of cohesion. There is no obvious order to the prints and Picasso has given them no titles, but perhaps this is to encourage an open-minded analysis, allowing for connections throughout the series. As you move further into the room, a predominant theme in Picasso’s work becomes apparent—his identification with classical sculpture. 46 out of the 100 plates in this series are aligned with this motif and are within the section titled the “Sculpture’s Studio,” illustrating classical mythical figures such as the Minotaur. The most dramatic and spectacular prints in this section are perhaps the series simply named “Rape,” depicting sexually charged scenes of a helpless woman with a large brutish figure, often so entangled in the image that it requires concentration to identify them.
This unmissable collection opened in May 2012 and will remain on view through September 2, 2012, so, if you’re in London this summer in the midst of the Olympic fever, head to the British Museum for your cultural fix.