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Picasso’s Ceramics

Picasso working on a platter abt 1953

Picasso working on a platter abt 1953

In 1946 Picasso  with his friend Louis Fort, decided to visit the pottery exhibition in Vallauris. He took a particular interest in the Madoura stand and asked to be introduced to the owners – Suzanne and Georges Ramié.

They invited him to their Madoura Pottery workshop in Vallauris. There he made three pieces which he left to dry and bake.A year later Picasso returned to see how the pieces had turned out. He was delighted with the quality of the work and asked if he could make more. They agreed and an area of the workshop was arranged especially for him. Immediately, he began to work, inspired by his portfolio of sketches. So began a long and very productive partnership between Picasso and Madoura. The whole Madoura team became part of the creative process. They made sure Picasso had all the materials he needed and assisted in producing perfectly finished works of art. Suzanne Ramié shared her vast experience, teaching him all the secrets of ceramics.
The Madoura studio and Picasso together produced 4,000 different plates, bowls, vases, pitchers, and other forms in limited editions ranging from 25 to 500. Picasso’s involvement in producing the objects varied. Sometimes he made the clay molds used for designs, while other times he painted on plates or pitchers taken from the drying racks. Picasso and Madoura’s artisans then finished the prototypes and produced the editions, each distinctly identifiable as coming from the imagination of Picasso.

Selection of Picasso ceramics

Selection of Picasso ceramics from Madoura pottery

He initially found that working with clay was a relaxing summer respite from the more strenuous demands of painting. He began with simple utilitarian objects, such as plates and bowls. He then proceeded to create more ambitious forms, such as pitchers and vases, where the handles became facial or anatomical parts of the animal depicted. The subjects are very creative and playful, and include Greek mythological figures, animal shapes, such as owls and fishes, corrida scenes, and face motifs, among others.
Picasso used unconventional tools for surface patterning such as kitchen knives or perforated cooking utensils. The dominant themes of Picasso’s ceramics became: the face, still lifes, animals like birds, fish and goats, mythical scenes of centaurs and fauns. Like in previous periods, he shows a big interest in bullfights and toreadors and classical imagery of Mediterranean simple life.
He created his ceramics in a spontaneous and playful manner. As opposed to his graphic opus, where he remained within the monochrome world, the ceramics enabled him to discover the world of colour. In Picasso’s world the vases, pitchers, plates, ceramic tiles and other objects, which he created and painted, acquired the dimensions of the canvas.

Madoura, Picasso ceramic jug, red earthenware clay with slip decoration

Madoura Pottery, Picasso ceramic jug, red earthenware clay with slip decoration

The master printmaker of the 20th century., Picasso desired to find ways of have some select pieces duplicated, much as an etching would be. With a help of the Ramié family, he produced an oeuvre, become known as the Editions Picasso. The ceramic editions offer an insight into the concerns of the greatest artist of the 20th century.

Picasso and his wife adopted a baby owl and the ow; theme is seen here. Owl vase, Picasso Madura pottery,

Picasso and his wife adopted a baby owl and the owl theme is seen here. Owl vase, Picasso Madoura pottery,

This experience with clay was also a success for Picasso’s personal life, as he met Jacqueline Roque at the Madoura factory in 1953, who would become his second wife in 1961.


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