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Picasso And Paper review: Big and brilliant

He may be 47 years dead but Picasso is still impossible to keep up with: The Picasso And Paper exhibition at the RA is big and brilliant

Picasso And Paper

Royal Academy of Arts, London                                                        Until April 13

Rating:

A retrospective of an artist’s work on paper doesn’t tend to get pulses racing. If that artist is Picasso, however, the usual rules don’t apply. He was a freakishly creative fellow, who – legend has it – could draw before he could talk. 

This new exhibition features works from across his career, and there are two obvious things to say. It’s big and it’s brilliant.

Picasso’s prints are worthy of a show of their own – several shows, in fact. The Frugal Meal, from 1904, is a pitiless etching of a starving couple at an empty dinner table. Cupid Entering A Brothel – from 1970, the other end of Picasso’s career – reflects the erotic fantasies of a 90-year-old man lacking his past vigour.

The biggest work on view is the show-stopping Femmes A Leur Toilette, 1937-38, a five-metre-long collage of bright wallpaper samples

The biggest work on view is the show-stopping Femmes A Leur Toilette, 1937-38, a five-metre-long collage of bright wallpaper samples

If the prints, like the drawings, are reasonably well known, this show has a host of revelations too. Specifically, the work on newspaper, wrapping paper, blotting paper, hotel-headed notepaper… the point being that, inside or outside his studio, Picasso never stopped working. 

Even at lunchtimes. He often paid for restaurant meals by squiggling on napkins.

The biggest work on view is the show-stopping Femmes A Leur Toilette, a five-metre-long collage of bright wallpaper samples. It depicts the bizarre scene of Picasso’s wife and two lovers, side by side, doing their hair.

Picasso was just too productive on paper for any one exhibition. At 300 works, there’s an excess to take in at one go (Head Of A Woman, 1962)

Picasso was just too productive on paper for any one exhibition. At 300 works, there’s an excess to take in at one go (Head Of A Woman, 1962)

My only gripe about this show is that, if anything, it’s too big. Picasso was just too productive on paper for any one exhibition. At 300 works, there’s an excess to take in at one go. 

The RA should seriously consider a ticketing system that allows visitors to break halfway through for a cuppa.

He may be 47 years dead but Picasso is still impossible to keep up with. 

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