Picasso 1932 - Love, Fame, Tragedy review

Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy review



“The work that one does is a way of keeping a diary.” – Pablo Picasso


Until the 9th September, the Tate Modern is showcasing a year of the great artist’s work in

Picasso’s first solo exhibition the Tate has ever curated. 1932 was a year of experimentation,

reflection, and unease for Picasso, which is felt through the chronological journey, month by

month, of the artist’s year. Already well into his career, Picasso was wealthy, successful, and

harshly criticised by those who believed he had already peaked. With Europe’s impending

political turmoil, and his personal life transitioning, ’32 was a career-defining year for Picasso, and the Tate displays it perfectly.


To set the scene; Picasso moved to Paris from Barcelona at the turn of the century and rose to fame through a myriad of different artistic styles, which all play a part in the year in question. He befriended fellow artists Matisse and Braque, with whom he founded Cubism. Picasso was also a large character in the city’s Intelligentsia circle and became close friends with writer and art collector Gertrude Stein. By the 30s, Picasso knew it was time to find a new style, and that inspiration came through his new muse and lover, Marie-Therese Walter. She appears in a large amount of the paintings in the exhibition, characteristically in pastel lilacs and pinks with voluptuous brush strokes, usually reclining or reading. The style of painting was leaning towards the new Surrealist movement, led by writer André Breton. Picasso tended to stay away from sticking to specific movements but was intrigued by this new way of creative expression.


The sense of agitation in artistic style is shown through the leaps from traditional portraits, to cubist abstraction, and sets of small canvases displaying hurried landscapes. Not all of the works are remarkable, but that’s what makes the exhibition seem so intimate. The room dedicated to his move to Boisgeloup, a chateau in Normandy, is particularly interesting. It is there that he created numerous busts of Walter, which he then used as prompts for paintings. The small photographs of Picasso and friends at the chateau were a gem to see in real life and humanized the iconic painter who everyone knows by name, but few know in major detail.


1932 is also permeated by the upcoming retrospective of Picasso’s work, which was a rarity at the time for an artist who was still alive. Picasso had full control over the curation, and chose not to display his work chronologically, but rather display his work with no clear indication of when it was created. A room in the Tate exhibition is dedicated to recreating how this show would have looked, and my highlight of the whole exhibition was seeing a portrait from his Blue Period. This show didn’t grant any more success to Picasso. Due to the looming Great Depression, there were no new paintings sold. You can feel this through the arbitrary organisation of works.


By the final two months of ’32, Picasso’s restlessness is brought to light through his somber paintings of a woman, most likely Walter, drowning, or being rescued from water. His confrontation of death was through Walter’s recent serious illness from swimming in

contaminated water, which risked her life. These greatly differ from the previous works of the year; they still have elements of Cubism but have such a dark tone that is not usually found in a Picasso. This ominous feeling was ever-present for the artist, due to Hitler being made Chancellor of Germany in ’33, and Spain being in the midst of civil war. Picasso’s personal life was soon to change, as was the whole of Europe’s, prompting a journey into Surrealism and Abstraction more so than previously seen.


‘Love, Fame, Tragedy’ is more than just the pieces of work on display, it’s about the inner

disquiet of the artist that is so rarely seen on such a large scale. With a life as rich and colourful as Picasso’s, this humanisation, through photographs and personal anecdotes, leaves you with a new-found respect for the artist.


By Alexandra Gibbs


Tate. (2018). The EY Exhibition: Picasso 1932 – Love, Fame, Tragedy – Exhibition at Tate Modern | Tate. [online]

Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/ey-exhibition-picasso-1932-love-fame-tragedy

[Accessed 23 May 2018].

Autoportraits.net. (2018). Autoportrait de Pablo Picasso. [online] Available at: http://www.autoportraits.net/pablopicasso.

html [Accessed 23 May 2018].




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