Works of art by one of the world’s most famous artists, Pablo Picasso, will go on public display at York Art Gallery this summer. The ceramics will feature in a new exhibition showcasing highlights from the Attenborough Collection, the most significant private collection of the artist’s ceramics in the country.
The exhibition will include some of the collection’s most iconic works representing the range of Picasso’s artistic interests. These will be compared and contrasted with ceramic works of contemporaries and those which influenced and were influenced by Picasso.
The exhibition Picasso: Ceramics from the Attenborough Collection, will go on show in the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) from July 28.The pieces have been generously loaned to York Art Gallery by the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, by kind permission of the Estate of Lord and Lady Attenborough.
Helen Walsh, curator of ceramics, said: “Visitors to the exhibition at York Art Gallery will be able to see Picasso’s ceramics alongside the work of many British studio potters. This includes the work of those that came before and after Picasso. Perhaps they will spot shared concerns or similarities in interests between what may at first seem strange bedfellows. “The loan of the works has been in the planning for a number of years and we are extremely grateful to the Attenborough family for agreeing to the loan and to Leicester Museums and Galleries for letting us have some of their prized pieces to share with our visitors.”
Lord and Lady Attenborough began collecting ceramics by Picasso in 1954, after meeting him whilst on a family holiday in the South of France. At the time, Picasso was beginning to experiment with clay and produce his own ceramics at Georges and Suzanne Ramié’s Madoura Pottery in Vallauris. The Attenborough’s returned to Vallauris year after year, purchasing many more pieces and created the most significant private collections of Picasso ceramics in the UK.
Pieces in the exhibition were chosen to reflect the range of Picasso’s own artistic interests and also reveal the taste of the collectors, Richard and Sheila Attenborough. The collection will be displayed alongside some of York Art Gallery’s British studio ceramics collection, offering the public the opportunity to compare and contrast the works of Picasso’s contemporaries and those that were influenced by his work.
One of the most significant pieces in the exhibition is Vase Aztèque Aux Quatre Visages (“vase with four faces”). The form was developed by Suzanne Ramiè, who took the inspiration from ancient Pre-Columbian portrait vessels. Sometimes called stirrup heads due to the hooped spout on the top of the form, the Pre-Columbian forms tended to be modelled by hand to create a realistic head shape and were mostly male, very occasionally boys, and never women. Picasso’s female version of the portrait vessel is based on his wife Jacqueline and was thrown on the wheel in sections and then assembled to give a smooth finish. The work has four portraits around the body of the pot, whilst the handle is painted to represent braided hair. Though a face appears on each side, Picasso cleverly painted them so that each adjacent face shares an eye. This pot has some similarities with York Art Gallery’s vase by Charles Vyse, which is said to be a portrait of his wife, Nell. Produced in 1935, it is double faced with handles representing arms, though this form is based on a Cretan Kore, a type of ancient Greek sculpture of a young female.