A new exhibition in Málaga provides a journey of discovery from Iberian art through Classical Antiquity and Baroque before concluding with the modern art of Pablo Picasso’s own contemporaries. Inaugurated in October, “Picasso’s South: Andalucian References” is scheduled to continue at Museo Picasso Málaga until 3 February as part of its 15th anniversary celebrations.
The show takes a look at the history of Spanish art by displaying works by Málaga-born Picasso – the protagonist of an essential chapter in modern art – alongside valuable archaeological artefacts and paintings by great masters
including Zurbarán, Velázquez, Murillo, Goya, María Blanchard and Juan Gris. “Picasso’s South” is described by the organisers as exploring the intellectual journey that Picasso made from south to north, using the symbolic heritage of his homeland to return to his point of departure. “It focuses on the profound imprint that Mediterranean culture left upon Picasso’s work and sets up a dialogue between a selection of works from his various creative periods and examples of Spain’s rich historic and artistic heritage, of which he was a great connoisseur.
“One of the aims is to illustrate how the visual nature of his work bears features and qualities such as austerity and loss of faith that are akin to those in Spain’s own collective memory. These features are both tangible in the nation’s artistic heritage and present in the emotional expression of a people who have, artistically, been constructing a cultural identity over many centuries. In the specific case of Andalucía, it is clearly that of a melting pot of three different cultures.”
PICASSO AND THE MASTERS
According to exhibition curator José Lebrero Stals, Picasso was “additive, cyclical and loyal to the memory of an iconography that he appropriated by incorporating it into the very act of demonstrating his own alterity. He turned art history into his own personal ‘other story’. The exhibition constructs a game of double correspondence between an outstanding selection of works produced by Picasso over a period spanning seven decades, and the two-and-ahalf- millennia history of Spain’s heritage, looked at in a different way.”
A total of 204 pieces are brought together in the exhibition, with paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works by Picasso seen alongside a major collection of archaeological artefacts from the Iberian and Phoenician cultures and the Greco-Roman period, as well as paintings, engravings and polychrome sculptures by great masters of Spanish art such as Juan Sánchez Cotán, Juan van der Hamen, Francisco de Zurbarán, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, Alonso Cano, Antonio de Pereda, Bartolomé E. Murillo, Pedro de Camprobín, Juan de Zurbarán, Pedro de Mena, Luis E. Meléndez and Francisco de Goya.
PICASSO AND THE SOUTH
Picasso’s influence and contribution to the history of 20th-century western art began in Málaga, where he was born at the end of the 19th century, and it continued during an eight-decade artistic career that ended back on the Mediterranean, on France’s Côte d’Azur.
The organisers note that the exhibition uses several premises to support the idea that Picasso never ceased to be interested in the origins and traditions of painting, “in much the same way as his migrancy bound him emotionally to his homeland, never shedding his loyalty to his cultural ties: Málaga, Andalucía and Spain were all part of his ‘southernness’, and not just in artistic terms.
“The influence of the Mediterranean, the magical gaze, the portrait throughout history, the Classics, the depiction of life and death in the Baroque period, the pietá, archetypes and rituals… These are just some of the arguments for examining subjects that formed part of Picasso’s iconography, such as the bullfight, still-life, vanitas paintings, motherhood and rituals, or his pictorial affinity with the masters of the Spanish Baroque, and which reveal diverse aspects of his strong identification with Spain’s artistic heritage and the novel way in which he interpreted it.” The “call of the south” is also apparent in Picasso’s poetry: free-flowing, spontaneous texts that he worked on during two decades from 1935. A selection of these poems is on display in the exhibition, which also offers visitors the opportunity of listening to Picasso’s voice, in two interviews that a Spanish journalist recorded for Radio Paris in Vallauris for the artist’s 80th birthday.