One Artist, One Year: Picasso Proves His Genius In This Tate Blockbuster

Picasso 1932, Tate Modern ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 24 months ago

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One Artist, One Year: Picasso Proves His Genius In This Tate Blockbuster Picasso 1932, Tate Modern 4
This is Picasso at his most abstract, though most paintings in this show are recognisable. Copyright Succession Picasso / DACS London.

The year is 1932, Picasso has turned 50 and the world around him is recovering from the first world war. He is an art superstar, everyone wants a piece of him and with that he's extremely wealthy.

But Picasso is unsettled — he wants his work to move in a new direction. This is reflected in his personal life, as he starts an affair with a much younger woman.

A woman drifts into a dream an apt description of how visitors may feel when they visit. Copyright Succession Picasso / DACS London

This Tate Modern exhibition is all about capturing this important year in Picasso's life, by focusing on the work he created at the time.

Most artists would struggle to fill one room with the paintings they created in a year, not so for the prolific Picasso. Here we see a room of five paintings — all painted between 2nd and 10th January, two of these painted on the same day.

This women feels more religious because of the colour palette. Copyright Succession Picasso / DACS London

Normally seeing the same motif of reclining nudes and seated figures repeated gets tiring. However, Picasso was a constant experimenter, so his variations ensure we never find ourselves thinking ‘not another nude’.

Most of his works have a surrealism to them as arms and legs become distorted, bulge and elongate. In one painting, a figure is seated next to a sculpture of a similar shape, questioning which is the artwork and which is the human.

This woman in a red armchair is closer to what we expect from Picasso. Copyright Succession Picasso / DACS London

His figures can become so abstract as to become a group of rocks or simple geometric shapes. A series focused on crucifixions takes his work down a darker path as skeletal figures, bent and broken, are barely recognisable as human and if it weren’t for the cross in the background viewers would be clueless.

A brightly coloured painting of a woman shows her looking in a mirror to see an uglier version of herself looking back. It’s a view of self-image that is timeless and particularly relevant today when self-image is a bigger issue than it was in Picasso’s time.

A grisly distorted crucifixion is present as Picasso's work gets darker. Copyright Succession Picasso / DACS London

It’s not all perfect and as with most Tate shows it’s a few rooms too long: ones full of drawings are markedly inferior to his paintings, and his landscapes with rainbows far too chocolate box for what we’d expect from Picasso. Thankfully the superb works easily outnumber the weaker ones.

We had approached this show with trepidation — after all the genius of Picasso is in the diversity of his work and surely limiting a show to one year of his life would fail to show this?

Our favourite piece is of a woman looking in a mirror and spotting an uglier self. Copyright Succession Picasso / DACS London

However, we’re glad to have been proven wrong with an excellent exhibition that zooms in on a small portion of Picasso's life, while being varied enough to showcase his artistic genius.

The EY Exhibition Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy is on at Tate Modern until 9 September. Tickets are £22.

Last Updated 07 March 2018