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Thursday, September 17, 1998 Published at 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK


Picasso's other passion

The exhibition will include nearly 200 of Picasso's ceramic creations (Courtesy: Succession Piccasso/DACS 1998)

A new exhibition opens on Thursday, dedicated to the lesser known works of the artist Pablo Picasso.

The Royal Academy of Arts in London is hosting the first ever display that focuses exclusively on Picasso's clay works - in an attempt to dispel the obscurity that surrounds them.

[ image: Bird 1947-48 (Courtesy: Succession Piccasso/DACS 1998)]
Bird 1947-48 (Courtesy: Succession Piccasso/DACS 1998)
Sarah Davies from the Royal Academy says: "The ceramics really serve to show the different aspects of Picasso's creations, and draw attention to his ability as a sculptor, which has previously been ignored."

Already world famous for his paintings, and with his notorious Blue, Rose and Cubism periods behind him, Picasso started to learn the art of clay sculpting in 1948.

He worked at the Madoura pottery works in the small Cote d'Azur town of Vallauris. Picasso lived there for seven years with Francoise Gilot, the artist 41 years his junior who also the mother of two of his children, Claude and Paloma.

He went on to create more than 3,500 clay sculptures, featuring the distinctive Picasso subjects - women, bull-fights, birds and fish, often Meditteranean-inspired.

Ceramic creations

The traditional vases and bowls were turned into tanagras and bull-rings by Picasso, who would take a simple clay object and transpose on it a variety of shapes and colours.

Ms Davies says: "The ceramics all just have such a great sense of humour. They are very witty interpretations of traditional items such as plates, jugs and vases."

[ image: Tanagra 1950 (Courtesy: Succession Piccasso/DACS 1998)]
Tanagra 1950 (Courtesy: Succession Piccasso/DACS 1998)
Picasso was attracted by the flexibility of clay and as a result, the unusual combination of ideas it could accommodate, in particular the concept of painting and pottery rolled into one creation.

The Royal Academy's exhibition includes around 200 of Picasso's clay and ceramic works, with at least two thirds never before exhibited.

Most had remained in his studio and were passed on to family members on his death in 1973.

However, a small number of Picasso's clay creation were put on show at private collections, at Picasso museums in Europe and the Ludwig Collection in Cologne.

They were all created at Vallauris, at a time recalled by many as the 20th century renaissance of art during the post-war years.

[ image: Insect 1951 (Courtesy: Succession Picasso/DACS 1998)]
Insect 1951 (Courtesy: Succession Picasso/DACS 1998)
But Ms Davies says the sculptures were never given a chance at fame, so long as Picasso's paintings were the talk of the art world.

"The success of these ceramic works was always overshadowed by Picasso's paintings, and after all, they are not as popular. But we hope now they will come into focus," Ms Davies says.

But if Picasso's clay works never did much for his name as a sculptor, they did a great deal for the town of Vallauris, which shot from obscurity to become the home of ceramics.

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