Picasso sculpture. What critics have said about it? What is our opinion?
Octavio Paz says that if Picasso was not the best painter of the twentieth century, at least he is ‘The Painter of the Twentieth Century’ in all its brutal and surprising changes. But what about his role as a sculptor … is much more controversial.
In the Nuevo Diario of Managua, William Navarrete calls it ‘Dilettante Sculptor’. His intention is not to detract his sculptures but to claim that they only filled the gaps and breaks between a painting and another one, or they served Picasso to experiment with new materials. No doubt, Picasso was a discontinuous sculptor, with periods without production and periods of great activity: those years sharing experiences with Julio Gonzalez or when he stayed in Vallauris.
Werner Spies is the author of two important books to study Picasso’s sculptures: ‘Das Plastiche Werke’ published in Stuttgart in 1971 and ‘Picasso Sculptor’, written for the exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in the year 2000. Also, I would like to mention the essay of Salvador González Haro ‘The pictorial art in ceramics by Pablo Picasso’ due to the importance of clay, plaster and other recycled materials in Picasso’s sculptures and of course, the classic of 1948, with photographs by Brassaï and text by the dealer Kahnweiler: ‘Les sculptures of Picasso’.
Personally, I think that the sculpture was important to Picasso. He approached to it since he was a child but he had to wait for acquiring the necessary technique, what did not happen with painting because his father (a painter) taught him from the beginning.
There is a wonderful story, which tells of a 13 year old Picasso in La Coruña. He illustrated, painted and wrote more than well. His father, impressed, symbolically gave him his palette and brushes to continue his work. But this story should include that the young Picasso also made copies of plaster models as a continuation of those ‘cuts’ of human figures he had made from childhood. He had always wanted to capture the three dimensions that a canvas does not offer (for that, he will invent Cubism).
In 1902 (21 y.o.), Picasso made his first sculpture while he painted sad blue images (his friend Casagemas had committed suicide the previous year and Picasso had failed in Madrid). During the next years he will make wood sculptures and busts in bronze influenced by Rodin: ‘Woman Combing’. His interest in the sculpture will not decay and in 1906, he will be fascinated by the Iberian sculptures that he will see in an exhibition at the Louvre.
From 1912, his sculptures will start to be original: his ‘cuts’ (“assemblages”) of ‘Guitars’ (in cardboard) and his ‘cuts’ of ‘Three Cups of Wormwood’ (in bronze). He was interested in sculpture and space, they had interested him since he played with paper, cloth and cardboard in Malaga, but he still didn’t dominate the techniques of metal or stone.
In 1928, he began to frequent the studio of the sculptor Julio González in Paris and there, he started to create remarkable sculptures: ‘Monument to Apollinaire’ and ‘Woman in the Garden’ because now, he knew the technique of metal.
In bronze made ‘Bathers and Metamorphosis of Boisgeloup’ and from my point of view, he reaches now the highest peaks of twentieth century sculpture. It is the space and material, it is the shape and proportion, it is the technical stranglehold which had been waiting from the time of his cardboard ‘assemblages’.
Other masterpieces are: ‘Man of the Lamb’, ‘Lady Bidder’ ‘Woman with pram’ or those gigantic sculptures placed in Chicago.
Picasso died with 92 (April 8, 1973), the night before he was painting ‘Nude woman lying down and head’. No doubt that the painting was his final passion but the sculpture was also an important part of his work and life.