Picasso is world-famous as a painter, sculptor & printmaker, highly regarded as a ceramicist and apparently even dabbled in stage design, poetry and play-writing. And yet, thanks to an insightful new exhibition, “Picasso & the Camera,” it seems that we should not forget to add “photographer” to Picasso’s already astounding list.
The exhibition explores how Picasso used photography not only as a source of inspiration, but as an integral part of his studio practice. Spanning sixty years, this show, which includes many photographs taken by Picasso but never before seen or published, as well as related paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, and films, will provide an unprecedented survey of his unique relationship with the camera.
The most famous visual artist of the 20th century, Picasso was also the most photographed. Thanks to the camera, his striking features became iconic, recognized the world over. Yet this phenomenon was not a mere by-product of celebrity; his own photographic practice set the precedent. Picasso engaged with photography and photographers in myriad ways, starting from his early days in Paris and continuing through the last years of his life. He used the camera to capture life in the studio and at home, to try out new ideas, to study his works and document their creation, and to shape his own image as an artist at work.
As the exhibition details, he collaborated with photographers Brassaï and Andre Villers to create wholly original works. He filmed home movies of his family and friends while also working with filmmakers such as Luciano Emmer and Henri-Georges Clouzot to capture his creative process. His life and work were documented by photographers as diverse as Jean Cocteau, Cecil Beaton, Man Ray, Lee Miller, Edward Quinn, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Lucien Clergue, Michel Sima, and Arnold Newman. The resulting body of photographs and films, filled with fact, invention and myth, is vital to an understanding of Picasso’s achievements across his entire artistic output. As Picasso said to one of his favorite photographers Brassaï, “…I want to leave as complete a record as possible for posterity.”
The record is not only complete but full of endless insights into the nature of creativity and artistic expression.
Editor’s Note: The exhibition Picasso & the Camera showed at the Gagosian Gallery in New York from October 28-January 3, 2015.