Picasso's Portraits - National Portrait Gallery, London

In a major exhibition of over eighty works, the National Portrait Gallery in London reveals the astonishing variety and innovation behind Picasso's portraits. Focusing upon the artist’s portrayal of family, friends and lovers the show reveals his creative processes as he moved freely between drawing from life, humorous caricature and expressive painting from memory.


This playful drawing ‘Le sculpteur et son modèle’ forms part of an intimate, self-reflexive series made in November 1931 from Picasso’s studio in Paris. Having spent the summer with Marie-Thérèse Walter at the Château Boisgeloup outside of the city, Picasso installed his young lover a few doors down from his marital home at 44 Rue La Boétie. From here Picasso began work on drawings based on the artist and the model, a subject he returned to frequently during the 1930s before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The 17 year-old Marie-Thérèse first met Picasso in 1927, sparking his separation from the Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova when she became pregnant in 1935. 


In ‘Le sculpteur et son modèle’, Picasso shows his muse Marie-Thérèse at the heart of the composition. This dialogue between the model, artist and sculpture echoes Picasso’s struggle with his own artistic identity as well as Marie-Thérèse’s role in defining the sensual aesthetic of his oeuvre during the 1930s. Picasso evokes this passionate connection through the use of a simple, erotic line that describes the voluptuous figure of the female nude. By positioning the model between the artist and the bust, Picasso also suggests the relationship’s ability to disrupt his creative process. Depicting the artist as an Apollonian bearded figure, Picasso appears as the classical sculptor Pygmalion, who was so enamoured by his creation that it came to life. However, in this context the artist’s connection to the sculpture is ruptured by the force of his sexual infatuation with Marie-Thérèse who dominates the centre of the drawing.


Picasso's Portraits continues at the National Portrait Gallery until 5 February 2017.


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November 28, 2016