To read about their perspectives on Picasso and his early works, click on a name:
Jeffrey Weiss, exhibition curator
Anne Hoenigswald, conservator
Sally Shelburne, educator
Anne Henderson, educator
Picasso's early training
"Picasso had a lot of art school and academic training very early on. And I think the most important thing he learned in art school was drawing which was something all art students learn as a fundamental element of their art. Picasso had a tremendous gift as a draftsman, however. And he discovered that gift in art school as well. . . . And I think that the technique of drawing that he learned and the rudiments of drawing that he acquired at that time played a very important role for him throughout the early period and later on in his life as well. He was very comfortable with drawing because he was so good at it. And he always fell back on it. Some of his innovations appear first in drawings and later in paintings."
Picasso in Barcelona
"When Picasso arrived in Barcelona during his early youth, he encountered the avant garde really for the first time. And in Barcelona he joined an avant garde group that gathered at the tavern called the Four Cats, or the Quatre Gats tavern. And there he adopted certain elements of turn of the century modernism, including the simplified contoured lines and a bold graphic style that lent itself to illustration and poster design.
"I think it's important to recognize that, while there was an avant garde in Barcelona, they always patterned themselves against what was happening in Paris. And that it was Paris that everyone had to go to eventually to find themselves as modernists because so much of advanced art had actually already occurred in Paris. And it was from Barcelona that Picasso went with a group of his friends from the, from the tavern to Paris for the first time.
"There were specific painting that we had in mind [for the show] from this period that would reflect Picasso's early acquaintance with avant garde style in Barcelona and those include the Portrait of Joseph Cardona, who was a friend of his in Barcelona. A sculptor, whose studio he shared. And which shows a certain quality of turn of the century Spanish style, especially in its simplifications and bold use of dark space with a strongly illuminated character."
Picasso's visits to Paris
"What we really wanted to show with Picasso's work in Paris was his rapid assimilation of various tendencies in post impressionist painting. When he got to Paris, he encountered French modernist painting for the first time firsthand in galleries and salons. And there he began to paint briefly like almost everybody he saw. So he moved very quickly from artist to artist adopting elements that he thought were particularly useful and abandoning the rest. And in that regard, we, there were a number of paintings that we wanted to borrow for the show that would show the variety of styles Picasso used in Paris including the Moulin de la Galette, which reflects Picasso's interest in Toulouse-Lautrec, for example."
Picasso's Blue period
"Picasso traced the beginning of his Blue Period to the suicide of his close friend, Carlos Casagemas. So we think I some respect there is an emotional origin to the Blue Period. And the first Blue Period picture was probably one of the deathbed portrait of Casagemas. But blue, in general, was a kind of convention at the time. Other artists were painting in blue when they wanted to show certain states of mind including melancholy or visionary states of mind of the condition of higher awareness or spirituality. So blue had a life in art of that time period. Picasso was the only one who sustained use of blue for such a long period of time in such a concentrated way.
"Well, once he, once Picasso started painting in blue, blue was pretty much what he focused on throughout the years 1901 to 1904, but there are some exceptions. In particular, drawings and caricatures, that in their humorist or satirical quality are actually a foil to some of the paintings of the Blue Period, which emphasize dolorousness and melancholy.
"Well, all artists, all young artists of the period painted to a certain degree in relation to the events in their own life. Picasso is unique for having transformed people from his life into characters in a larger narrative that I think has to do with Picasso's bohemian identity, so a number of the figures he portrayed during the Blue Period are anonymous. Figures we associate with the margins of society. The dispossessed and the underclass. But Picasso also painted friends and lovers from that period in the same style, as if to link them all in this larger community of the margin or the bohemian. And Picasso, himself, was included in that community and he painted a great self-portrait during the Blue Period that reflects that."
"Well, it's somewhat unusual to see as many self-portraits as we do in early Picasso, although a number of artists during the period - one thinks of Van Gogh, for example, or Gauguin - painted a number of self-portraits as well. And they, of course, came from a generation before Picasso and in some respects he modeled himself on them. But what we can learn from Picasso's self-portraits is how volatile and changeable his personality was. Picasso seems to change hats frequently in his self-portraits. He'll depict himself in one case as a dandy and in another case as a bohemian. And in the third case, he might depict himself in a larger scenario that is a kind of fiction as opposed to an actual event in his life. In all of these instances, we see Picasso reflected on his own variety as an artist and also on the virtuosity of his stylistic development. Picasso paints himself in this various styles that he adopts along the way throughout the early career."
Comparing the Blue and Rose Periods
"Well, to a certain extent there's a continuity between the Blue Period and the Rose Period in the sense that both bodies of work focus on the dispossessed. In the case of the Rose Period, Picasso was specifically interested in the community of saltimbanques and harlequins or fair performers, who lived on the outskirts of Paris and I think that has something to do with his interest again in the bohemian identity of the marginal outsider. In the case of the fairground, it was actually geographically on the outside or on the edge. And Picasso was especially interested in the fact that these people lived by themselves in this isolated community and seemed to circulate in a world apart. Picasso identified with that just like he identified with the dispossessed during his Blue Period. Picasso also saw himself as a member of the itinerant fairground community. This was also something derived in part from symbolist poetry, which Picasso knew fairly well, in which the fairground performer, the saltimbanque in particular, appears as a proxy for the artist or the alienated man of genius, who lives outside of the mainstream.
"I think that there is a quality to the Rose Period that is somewhat more domestic and warm, partly through the use of a warmer palette, of course, but also because Picasso's subjects are domestic in and of themselves. They tend to be images of people in pairs or small groups, sometimes in families, but there's also a sense of ennui that carries over from the Blue Period and so I think that the interpretation of the Rose Period as being reflection of better circumstances in Picasso's own life is a bit simplified. In fact, circumstances personally were a little bit better. He had a close relationship developing with a woman that would be very important in his life during 1905-06 and the early years of cubism. But I would hate to attribute a change in style simply to circumstances alone.
"I think the change from blue to rose partly reflects the fact that Picasso was always changing. The Rose, the Blue Period is the first time Picasso really sustains something. The first time in his career Picasso really sustains a particular style for a few months or a year. But by the time he reaches 1904 and it's the late Blue Period, Picasso certainly had used up his ideas about the Blue Period. The Rose Period partly reflects Picasso's looking for something new. At the same time I'd like to emphasize that there's a continuity between the Blue and the Rose Periods more than a shift. And if there's a major break in Picasso's early work, it comes after the Rose Period and not between the Blue and the Rose."
The Summer at Gosol
"Towards the end of the Rose Period, Picasso's work grows very elegiac and there's a certain stasis in the compositions of his paintings. His figures gain a little bit of weight and they start to move slowly away from the body type of the Rose Period, which is very attenuated and kind of emaciated, reflecting the conditions of the dispossessed and the poor. In the summer of 1906, Picasso travels to a small village in the Spanish Pyrenees called Gosol. He goes there with his companion, Fernande Olivier. It's there, I think, that he banishes the Blue and the Rose and the melancholy that's associated with that work in particular that's associated with the urban milieu. The landscape in Gosol was very rugged and the people that he encountered there are also rugged peasant types, living, it seems outside of modern society. I think Picasso was startled to return to his Spanish roots in this way and to find this community offering him something completely new for his work. In addition, I think he saw a lot of Romanesque and archaic art at that time in Spain. And that together with his experience in Gosol encouraged him to transform his work into something that was much more brutish and primitive and much was less about, about ennui and melancholy, the kind of states of mind and states of body we associate with the Blue and Rose Periods.
"Picasso brought a number of canvasses to Gosol and painted a lot of work there. The transformation is evident throughout the work he produced there and I would single out perhaps The Woman With Loaves, which is a very monumental, archaic image of a woman carrying two loaves of bread. She almost looks like an element out of an architectural setting, a kind of temple sculpture, if you will. But any number of paintings in the show from Gosol reflects the, the complete transformation in Picasso's style at that time."
Why this exhibition
"Picasso's early career had never been treated in totality in an exhibition. Parts of the early career, sometimes large parts of it, have been shown, but no one had really attempted to do a complete survey of, of, of the early career as we define it - from the very beginning to the end of 1906. In part, the National Gallery especially was interested in the subject of this show because we have a number of works in our collection from the early period and it was a good opportunity for us to bring context to the works in our collection. But also, we think that the early career is a remarkable body of work, a kind of career unto itself in a way that has a beginning, a middle and an end. It seems to come to a conclusion in 1906, before it opens up again onto the cubist years. And that was a story we thought we wanted to tell. To a certain degree, the early career of Picasso is unlike that of any other artist certainly of his time in the sense that it reflects an enormous and restless artistic search for identity. And the work Picasso produced is partly the product of this search and in that sense, the early career sort of looks like a kind of odyssey to us."
The job of conservator
"As a Conservator, there are two things, in fact, that we do. The first thing is to take care of the paintings if there are any needs they might have in terms of repairs or structural problems or if there's a varnish that's discolored and needs to be removed and in-painting that needs to be done in areas where there are losses, we'll do that. A good deal of our time is [also] spent just examining pictures and understanding both the condition of the pictures and also the artist's techniques and the whole process of painting.
"I think the most exciting thing is to make discoveries on pictures, but it is just a thrill to be as close as we are to the paintings. We take them out of their frames. We take them off the museum wall. We bring them in to the Conservation studio. And we're able to get close to them. As close as the artist's did. We use microscopes. We use special cameras. And all of this allows us to really penetrate a picture and understand how the artist worked on it
"In an exhibit like this, where the paintings are coming from all over the world, there is incredible excitement because so many of them we only know from black and white photographs. We sometimes keep seeing the pictures and think that a painting, in fact, is very, very large and then it arrives and although we knew from reading books, we knew exactly what the dimensions were. All of the sudden, it arrives and we're surprised at how small it is or what a stunning surface a picture might have, which a photograph can never reproduce properly, or the relationships of the colors that you'll never know even with a good transparency. The surfaces on a picture - particularly on modern pictures- are crucial, and so we find that when the paintings come in, there is a true excitement. It's one of the most exciting parts of the job."
Why the Picasso exhibition?
"What we find having the paintings come together, this is exactly why we do exhibitions like 'Picasso.' We're able to bring paintings together, which we of course know through catalog resonnés and through reproductions. But seeing them side by side allows us to recognize the relationships between the pictures. You see the, the progression [in] the artist's work that simply isn't as clear when you see them one at a time in, in museums and, and other places."
About the Portrait of Pere Manach
"The 'Pere Mañach' picture was particularly exciting for us because we did an infrared image where we were able to penetrate the paint film and discovered underneath that, in fact, Picasso had at first depicted his friend as a bullfighter. And the infrared image shows the toreador's epaulets or umbreros as they're called in Spanish. And we realized at that point that he had had the complete costume of a toreador and, in fact, that made it very clear that the position of the arm where it was on his hip, in fact, was also traditionally the way that a toreador would be depicted. So what we then realized that the tie Pere Mañach has on, even in the picture as we see it today, is this thin, little, red tie, which, in fact, nobody on 1901 would have worn except for a bullfighter. And this is the one element from the original composition, from the original depiction of his friend that remains in the final version. And I've always thought that, in fact, this was Picasso's little joke, saying, 'I know that I first painted you as a bullfighter. And you remember this. And anybody is clever enough to know that this red tie is a bullfighter's, well, good for them, but this is, this is just the game I'm playing.' And this is, in fact, what Picasso does time and time again. He leaves little clues on the surface of his picture so that you have some sense that there, that there may be something else underneath."
"The Tragedy, which is at the National Gallery and part of our permanent collection, is a painting that's been here for quite some time and a painting that we've always hung on the wall and just thought of really as three figures on a beach. But we brought it down to the Conservation Studio so that we could do an examination with x-radiography and our infrared camera and also just looking very carefully at the surface, both with the naked eye and with the microscope.
"When Tragedy first came down to the Conservation Studio, there were several clues on the surface that, in fact, intrigued us so much and made feel that there might be something underneath. The most obvious one was impasto or dried paint that was built up that was, in fact, underneath the top layer of paint that had nothing to do with the composition as we know it today. The other thing that we found was that there were areas of bright oranges and bright yellow areas that were sort of peeking through the uniform blue layer and that had nothing to do with Picasso's Blue Period. So we really began to think that there might be something else underneath.
"Well, the next step after we see those clues is really to take an x-radiograph of the painting. And that's precisely the same thing that's done in a hospital; it reads density of materials. Just as a bone is more dense than other tissue, certain paints have a density that is different than others and that's how you see the changes. So we did an x-radiograph here and we saw changes. In fact, what we saw was a horse in the lower lefthand corner and realized that had nothing to do with the three figures.
"When we saw the horse, initially we were very excited because it was so clear that we have something very different from what was on the surface of the picture. And the first thing we did at that point was call in an art historian, a curator of twentieth century art, because it's really working together, the art historian and the conservator, where the conservator is able to do the analysis, read the layers of the paint surface and do the technical photographs, but then needs the assistance of the art historian to say, as he did in this case, 'I recognize that horse. That looks like the type of horse Picasso was using in his 1901 bullfighting pictures.'
"We realized after we looked at it more closely that if we turned the painting on it's side and read it as a horizontal rather than a vertical image, you could see a series of arches that were particularly clear at the top, now what was the top lefthand corner. You could see the horse even more clearly. We recognized even the back end of another horse, elements that clearly had nothing to do with the figures on the beach and we knew that there was something much more complicated underneath.
"Well, then the next step was to look through a catalog resume of Picasso's works, look for the horse, look for arched shapes and what we came across were the 1901 bullfight scenes, where he did these brightly colored images of the arenas, of the bullfighting arenas. And we found what wasn't an exact replica of the horse, but something very close to this tortured contorted horse and then also these arenas, which had these beautiful Roman arches in the background. So it became very clear that had a 1901 bullfight scene there, [the] interior of the arena and it was just what we were seeing on some of the sketches that we have that are much smaller. And of course, the palette of these 1901 paintings have these very bright yellows and oranges and those are precisely the colors that we saw peeking through the blues, which confirmed that, that we did have a 1901 picture underneath.
"After we did the x-ray, what we did next was take an infrared image, which is another way of reading below the paint surfaces, but rather than reading everything as an x-ray does, it reads really what is directly beneath the top layers of paint. And so what we saw at this point was some of the same images we saw in the x-ray, but some additional ones as well. And we saw a running figure. We could see the feet very clearly. We could see the back of the horse with this sort of bunched up tail. We saw the arches again and we realized that it was getting more complicated than just a horse in an arena. And again, working with an art historians, we realized that there was a sketch from 1902, which was called The Orasco, which was the leading out after the bullfight. And that is precisely what this, all the elements were picking up in the infrared related to. They are very, very clear connection to that drawing."
Why did Picasso do this?
"It's more than just Picasso painting over his paintings. Many artists do that if they don't have money to buy new canvasses. Sometimes they'll just reuse an old canvas. What is unique about Picasso and very exciting about Picasso is that he takes elements from the lower compositions or the initial images and then he incorporates them into the next composition. For example, what were the arches in the 1901 bullfight scene became, in fact, the headdresses, the plumes on the horses that are being led out of the, of the arena in the 1902 image. And in fact, what we've found when we've looked and put together the infrared image and the x-ray and superimposed them on the photograph of the painting, what we could see was the horses from the 1902 image, in fact, fit in perfectly in the, uh, contour of the, the man on the beach So he keeps taking elements, shapes and forms and reinterpreting them in, in every painting he, he has on it.
"When Picasso paints over his paintings, he's simply revealing the fact that his paintings are never finished. His mind is constantly moving. He keeps seeing things in his own paintings and he wants to then incorporate them in the next idea. He doesn't see his paintings as finished necessarily. And I think, even if he has an idea initially, that idea becomes transformed as he's working and I think this simply reinforces what a, what a genius he is as an artist."
What about Family of Saltimbanques?
"Oh, there are wonderful discoveries with The Saltimbanques. And in fact, there are clues on the surface of this painting as well. What we found, if you can see on the picture, at the very top of the, over the head of the figure on the far left, there's a crackle pattern, wide cracks. And those to a conservator indicate very clearly that there is some change underneath because it has to do with the different drying rates. So we really thought that there must be something else going on in his head. We also realized that there are other areas where there are pentimenti or artist's changes. And we just simply began to think that there must be some changes on this picture. And also there's documentation. There are friend's of Picasso's that wrote long after this picture was first painted that they remembered it being in the studio and having different figures in it. So we had all these, these clues being, being handed to us and did an x-ray of this picture and also connected it to drawings that we knew came from the same period. And in fact, what you find on the figure at the far left is that he was initially wearing a top hat. And there is a wonderful series, uh, image of the circus family where that black top hat and clearly Picasso for some reason wanted to remove it from the final version of The Saltimbanques.
"As you're standing in front of the picture, in fact, you can see that there are several clues that might suggest that there might be something else going on. On the tall figure on the far left, we see that there are cracks above his head and that suggests to a conservator that there is a change in the paint layers and in fact, we know that, that, that revealed a top hat that's underneath. And then on the figure on the far right you can actually see what's called pentimenti or artist's changes. And you can see that the hat has, in fact been shifted. It almost looks like a little ghost image, but you see sort of two, two hats superimposed so we know that he's changed that as well. And there are other little bits and pieces on the picture that just keep telling you that, that there's something happening underneath the paint surface. Either impasto or strokes of paint that have nothing to do with the top layer, which make it very clear that you have to do more examination and find out what's underneath.
"Well The Saltimbanques is a particularly exciting painting to look at because so much is going on with it, but it's not unique. This is not the only picture that we have these kind of changes. This is something Picasso has done on almost all of his pictures. We see the changes and he also leaves clues. You can go through the whole exhibition and you can see bits of paint that keep popping out that have nothing to do with the final coloring. Or you might find textures that have nothing to do with the imp-, the impasto that's finally on the surface of the painting. So there are always going to be clues. And it's happened time and time again with these early Picasso's and it goes on throughout his career. It's not something he does just because he's poor and can't afford to buy canvas. This has to do much more with his creative process and the way that he, he faces a painting and the image he's trying to make."
Picasso as a Child Artist
"When Picasso was very young, it was recognized by his family, which included his father, who was an instructor in the art academy in Spain, that his son evidenced a facility for drawing. This was so evident that by the time he was eleven years old., he was capable of being enrolled in art academy classes in provincial towns in Spain, but nonetheless, through early portraits that he had done of family members, of his sister, through sketching he did constantly, a facility for drawing really evidenced itself very early.
"He was encouraged by his family too. It was almost as if he was the first son, the first heir to appear in his family in a number of years. And it was almost as if they expected him to be a great artist really from the very beginning.... especially brought on by his father's interest.
"His father was, by all accounts, a relatively mediocre artist himself. But he did sketches of pigeons and other sights around the local town, Malaga, where Picasso was born. Therefore, Picasso saw his father painting, he saw him drawing. And it is apocryphally thought that his [Picasso's] first word was to ask for a pencil himself, probably around the age of two. He was always drawing. It's hard to say 'first introduced' It's almost as if it was a part of his life and he was exposed to art very early on and, of course, was expected to be a great artist himself."
Picasso's Academic Training in Art
"Picasso was introduced to art formally when his family moved from Malaga when he was ten years old to the northern coast of Spain to a very small town called La Coruña. He had passed some rudimentary entrance exams, which allowed him to enter the academy at Coruña, where his father was teaching. And what he did there was a very, very traditional art education. He copied from plaster casts of the great classical sculptures that were a familiar stock and trade in all the art academies all over Europe. And as he progressed through this kind of course, rudimentary course, he was then allowed to draw from live models. So he had a very traditional and stringent academic art training very early on. I'm talking about eleven, twelve years old when he's beginning this apprenticeship if you will.
"In the exhibition you can see the Study from a Torso, which is a beautifully muscled, exquisitely drawn torso. He also did sketches and drawings from life, all of this taking place from the time of eleven to the time of thirteen or fourteen years old. He then will continue his studies in Barcelona where his family lives. And when they feel he is really ready for the big leagues, he spends a year - not long because by then Picasso's really ready to move on - in San Fernando, the great academy in Madrid."
Picasso in Barcelona
"The time Picasso spent in Barcelona exerted a tremendous influence on him in a number of very, very important ways. For one thing, it's hard for us who are not Spanish to understand the difference between where Picasso was born in Andalusia and the capitol, the center of Catalan culture, which is Barcelona. And Barcelona was really the center of the avant garde. And it was in Barcelona that he joined the group of 'modernistas.' In the truest sense of the word, people who were looking to lead, to reject the norms, for which, of course, Picasso long had in his sight. And he joined a group of intellectuals, writers, painters and poets that are gathering at one of these lovely bohemian cafés that becomes legendary called Els Quatre Gats, the Four Cats. Barcelona really is the place that Picasso establishes his identity as one of these leaders rather than somebody who is going to follow in the academic tradition. It's in Barcelona that he realizes he's going a totally different way. His rebellion manifests itself.
"The combination of Els Quatre Gats and Picasso is a very unique one. It's because he was young, you understand, very young when he was there - 16, 17, 18. And what he really realizes is a whole world, there was a liaison between the Quatre Gats and the intellectuals that are gathering there and all that was going on in Paris. It was like a pipeline of the new ideas, both artistically and in a literary sense as well. So it was breath of fresh air. There was this whole other world. And of course, Paris is that world and it [Barcelona] became that link. But what's unusual for Picasso is that even as the young, the outsider, he learns quickly to speak Catalan. He is recognized by these older, more established and in many cases, quite prominent Spanish intellectuals as somebody special. He becomes their protegé. And so it gives him a sense of his own importance and it becomes what is known in the first place where Picasso becomes the head of a tertulia, the head of a group. And of course, in Paris that will later translate into the Picasso band. So Els Quatre Gats - this is the first place we see this. The young outsider being recognized by the establishment as somebody really quite special. He has his first exhibit there."
"Now I think the other thing we need to recognize is Picasso's tremendous ambition. And it was coupled with what his biographer, John Richardson, calls 'a reasonably gifted person.' A person who had a phenomenally visual memory and could then ransack art history, drawing from all sources, especially Spanish sources, and turn that through hard, hard work into his own style.
"It may be hard to know just how much Picasso realized how good he was. What he did realize is that he wanted to be the greatest. He wanted to be the heir to El Greco, to Velasquez. And he knew to do that he'd have to find his own way."
Picasso's trips to Paris
"Picasso's life when he was living in Paris was not easy. I think we really have to hand it to him. He was very, very poor. While in 1901, he was able to reach some financial success at his first show, there were long periods of time when none of his works sold. He was quite homesick. He had been used to being taken care of by his mother, by adoring relatives. And he was a long way from home and, again, he was very young. He was homesick. So there were lots of pilgrimages back and forth between Paris and Spain."
Picasso and le Bateau Lavoir
"What can we possibly remember from Le Bâteau le Voir, Picasso's first real home in Paris, where he settled in 1904? It's been sanitized in our memory, but in actuality, it was really quite a dump. It creaked. It had only one facility for over thirty people. It stank, if that's the proper word to use. The living conditions were really horrific. Hot in the summer. Freezing cold in the winter. Crowded. As I said, it sounds better now than it ever was at that point.
"Picasso stayed at Le Bâteau Lavoir for at least several reasons not the least important of which is that it was cheap. And it also had a reputation as being a gathering place for the intellectuals if you will, the bohemians and it attracted a number of very, very interesting people - artists, writers. Max Jacob lived there for a brief period of time. It was sort of an itinerant check-in point, if you will. So it had it's charm and it was a very good location. It was very easy to get to local bars, if you will, local restaurants, so he did develop an affection for it.
"Some of the people who became part of the bande Picasso were primarily French. Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Andre Salmon became his three closest friends or confidants during this period in particular. And I think there wouldn't really be complete without bringing them in. Then there would be Spanish people who came with him from time to time to visit who would also augment the, augment the Bande Picasso. But those were the three primary ones.
"Picasso painting, I think, is different from Picasso dressing, which is interesting. As part of a rebellion, he would dress himself when he went to visit in really outlandish clothes. Ones that would shock his parents. When he was painting, he would wear very ordinary work clothes. Pants and a shirt. If it was hot, he would take his shirt off. . . . Matisse was different. Matisse would dress in a suit to paint because that was a profession. Picasso would always be more bohemian in his approach."
"Pere Mañach and Vollard played important roles in Picasso's life early on, because of finances. Pere Mañach gave him a stipend, 150 francs a month, in return for work. And that allowed Picasso to buy materials. It allowed him to pay rent. It allowed him to do the living. Then Vollard -- Pere Mañach also introduced Picasso to Vollard. And at the time, even at that early time, by 1901, Vollard was already established as a dealer of important up and coming artists. And this gave Picasso early on a good show. They were both important in, people in his life.
"Picasso's side jobs were connected with art. That is, he didn't paint houses, or he didn't wait tables, or he didn't teach school so to speak. But the difference between high art and low art, that might be a little bit of a blurry area. For instance, he did lots of poster design. He did commercial graphic arts, if you will. So I'm not sure if you want to say that everything he did had to do with art in the sense that everything was devoted just to his painting and drawing because he certainly tried to illustrate books. He tried to illustrate magazine articles. He published in journals and was involved in that kind of work as I said, but not house painting perhaps."
Ways of Looking at this Early Part of Picasso's Career
"There are a number of works in this exhibition dating from his earliest that Picasso kept in his possession all of his life, for instance, The Girl with Bare Feet. And he would look at these paintings as marks of, of, of progress. He could gauge and see how far he had come, see where he was going. So that was one way he would use this early work, if you will, this early period, for his later work. A second way, as I suggested, was he would often paint over, partly because he was poor, but partly because it was a way of regenerating a, a new composition based on an older one. So as you, you look through x-rays now, we can see exactly those kind of changes, those kind of new ideas that came out of it. So the early years provided him with springboards, and they also provided him with a sense of, of, of mastery. So he got both things and by the end of this early period, his early years, 1906, where this exhibition stops, he used this work time and time again to go forward. And he'll look at it again. He'll come back to it throughout his, his life, his career."
"If I had to define Picasso, I think I would call him opposites. He was both charismatic and not very likable. He was generous and mean. He was talented and driven. He was rebellious and, on the same token, really wanted the approval of his family. So for, and I'm not the first to say this unfortunately, he really is a mass of contradictions. I think most all, I think most of all would have to say he's probably a very, very charismatic personality. There was something about him that attracted men and women to him. And when you see his portraits and you look in his eyes, you know that you too probably would have been drawn to the bande Picasso. Forceful personality.
"The early years, if you think of the things he was doing and the ages he was doing them, it was a time of recklessness. It was a time of experimentation. It was what all adolescents seem to do. And he was successful in that and successful to the point that he realized his own ability. And I think that early years gives him a springboard to go forward with what really changes contemporary art- that is, cubism, where the figure is totally broken into unrecognizable parts. But it was this early driving, this early restlessness, this early experimentation and the success that he had at it. I mean, he was acknowledged at this time to be a successful at this time. By the close of this exhibition, he's established as a real innovator. And one of the great artist's to look at and to watch for. So I think you can't ask for anything more in your adolescent experimentation.
"From early on, I think Picasso thought he was destined for great things. Great things were expected of him. And he did receive these accolades throughout his artistic life. That's not to downgrade the periods of extreme poverty and really hard, hard work. And the fact that he said ', 'I've done all this work; I hope it sells.' [on the occasion of his third or fourth show] I mean, there's that, there's that real bleak periods.
"There's a wonderful quote that Picasso said about himself, which I find very telling and very interesting and I'd love to include this. And he said, 'When I was a child, my mother said to me, "If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk, you'll end up as the pope." Instead, I became a painter and I wound up as Picasso.'"
The Artist's Childhood
"I think that as a child, Picasso was always drawing. And there are many stories about him as a youth or a young child where he was always drawing. He would tend to draw in the dirt and then it would be erased. But he was always doing that. His cousins often times would challenge him to draw different kinds of animals, say the ear of a dog or to draw a dog and start with the ear. Or to draw a donkey and start with the tail. So he was always starting with a different point on the animals. And Picasso often referenced that as he grew older and maybe elaborate the story perhaps about this task given to him by his cousins to draw the animals or whatever at different points. And that facilitated his drawing skill.
"I don't know the interest in the alphabet, but definitely in school, he was often times bored with classes and he would try to get in trouble a lot. And there's a story in the John Richardson biography that Picasso wanted to leave the classroom and so he would get into trouble and he would do it on purpose. So he could go to this room, where there was nothing else there. But he would take his pencil and paper and just draw all day. And he often said he was happiest if he was drawing and that's what he enjoyed the most.
"Well, I think that in terms of Picasso's stories about his childhood that he would tell these stories continually throughout his career. And it seems through the biographies that have been written that they tended to be elaborated. And I think Picasso probably enjoyed that and wanted that to happen. That is made him seem more of a child prodigy that these wonderful stories of him drawing at the early age of, before the age of six or whatever and really becoming a, a, an artist at that age. Picasso really encouraged those stories yet there's no documentation really to support that. And it seems in many ways what Picasso did well was to do academic drawings, when he was copying other works and he really excelled at that. When you look at his own original drawings as an early child, they're pretty typical for a six or a nine year old. That he really wasn't that amazing. But I think through his biographies and through his stories that he himself told and continued, he wanted that tradition and that myth built up around him as a child prodigy."
What can be learned from looking at Picasso's early works
"I think that when one thinks of Picasso you don't always think about his early years. And so, since this exhibition focuses on his early years, I think anyone coming to the exhibition is going to learn interesting things about Picasso. One, that he went to art academies, so he wasn't just a child prodigy that happened without any training at all. That there were- that he did attend classes. He did academic drawings and studies. He did get bored in, he got bored in classes and therefore he wanted to get out of school as quickly as possible. And so I think you'll probably discover that. And you'll see that he progresses around. And one of the interesting things for me looking at this exhibition, looking at his early works, is that you see him really looking at different artists and looking at different styles. And we'll explore that through the exhibition that you'll see him looking and developing his own styles and you see him hit that during the Blue period and into the Rose period. And I think that's one of the things you don't think about his early works and how they influenced his works of today."