In 1946, Pablo Picasso, who was already recognized as one of the world’s leading painters, sculptors and graphic artists of the 20th century, decided to take on a new medium.
That summer, while vacationing on the Mediterranean coast, the 63-year-old Spanish-born artist attended an exhibition of local handcrafts and met Georges and Suzanne Ramie, owners of Madoura Pottery.
Picasso had long been intrigued by ceramics (through the work of fellow artist Paul Gauguin), and was given a spot in their studio where he created three pieces of pottery.
Those pieces were the beginning of 25 years of work in ceramics for Picasso.
Valley residents will have a chance to see 65 pieces of that work — including plates, bowls, pitchers and vases — in the exhibit “Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics” at the Desert Botanical Garden’s Ottosen Gallery. The show opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 15.
“Everyone knows Picasso’s paintings. But a lot of people don’t know about the vast body of work he had in ceramics,” says Melanie Day, manager of temporary exhibitions at the garden. “I hope that everyone who sees the exhibit will recognize his amazing work in ceramics.”
Through Picasso’s experimentation and enormous originality, he changed the way people view art, says Marilyn A. Zeitlin, director and chief curator of Arizona State University Art Museum.
“He really overturned a lot of traditions, constantly,” she says. “He did it first with the blue period and the rose period. But he just kept reinventing himself, reinventing art.”
And Picasso brought the same nonconformist style to his work in ceramics. He experimented with jugs, vases, platters and plates by using spontaneous color and sometimes repositioning the handles and spouts to suggest anatomical features.
Over the years, the Madoura studio produced 633 Picasso plates, bowls, vases and pitchers in limited editions ranging from 25 to 500 copies each. Picasso’s involvement in fabricating the objects varied from making clay molds used for designs to painting the plates or pitchers taken from the drying racks. Artisans then finished the prototypes and produced the editions.
Picasso’s ceramics are usually treated as less important than his paintings, but their value should not be overlooked, says Zeitlin.
“I think the ceramics don’t have the resonance that the rest of his work does,” she says. “They’re not the most serious work that he ever did. But they’re lovely. They’re delightful, playful. People will enjoy them tremendously.”
‘Picasso: 25 Years of Edition Ceramics’
When: Saturday through Nov. 15
Where: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
Cost: $10 adults, $9 seniors, $4 for children 3-12, free for garden members
Information: (480) 941-1225 or www.dbg.org