Born in Andalusia, Spain in 1881 and spending most of his adult life in France, Pablo Picasso already enjoyed a towering reputation as one of the 20th century’s most brilliant artists by the time of his death in 1973.
Since then, Picasso’s stature has only grown, with his influence permeating all aspects of visual culture. As an astonishingly prolific creator, his work has featured in endless major exhibitions and each is a huge event in the art world.
One such exhibition is Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901, which opened at London’s Courtauld Gallery earlier this year. Focusing exclusively on Picasso’s earliest exhibited works, which were committed to canvas when the artist was not yet 20 years old, the Courtauld’s show promises a glimpse of the historic moment where a meteoric rise to fame began.
The exhibition is about to enter its final month, so modern art enthusiasts visiting the capital are urged to attend what the Financial Times described as “the most exuberant, magnificently focused selection of early Picassos” ever seen.
Picasso’s debut in 1901 took the Parisian art world by storm. His first exhibition, curated by Ambroise Vollard, quickly became the stuff of legend. It incorporated works like the self portrait Yo Picasso, Absinthe Drinker and La Nana – pieces that show a talent already highly developed, full of the versatility and erudition that Picasso would quickly achieve renown for.
The Courtauld Gallery’s exhibition includes 18 paintings, many of which are reunited from the legendary Paris show. It also covers what would later be dubbed Picasso’s ‘Blue period’, where in the second half of 1901 a close friend’s tragic death triggered a spate of mournful, melancholy works – including iconic images like Seated Harlequin.
The Courtauld describes the pieces from this period as “profoundly moving” – a striking counterpoint to the brazen vivacity found in the preceding works.
Entry to the Courtauld Gallery costs £6 for adults and ticket prices cover admission to the Becoming Picasso exhibition. Served by the Temple, Embankment, Charing Cross and Covent Garden tube stops, the Courtauld Gallery is easily accessible from Montcalm London hotel and landmarks.