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Pablo Picasso's "Paths of the South" examined at the Centre d’art La Malmaison in Cannes
A woman looks at a painting presented during the exhibition "Picasso Les chemins du Sud" dedicated to Spanish artist Pablo Picasso at the Art Center La Malmaison in Cannes. This exhibition runs until September 30, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET.

Translated by: Helen Ronald

CANNES.- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) “painted the way some people write their autobiography.” And thus his work seems intimately linked to those places where the evolving artist chose to spend his time. Nostalgic for the brilliance of Spanish summers, as early as 1919 he began frequenting the “paths of the south” and in 1946 settled permanently in the Mediterranean-suffused landscape of the Côte d'Azur.

During the twenty-seven years of this particularly prolific sojourn, the painter lived successively in the towns of Vallauris, at the Villa la Galloise and later at his studios Le Fournas and Madoura, then in Cannes at the Villa la Californie and finally in Mougins at his farmhouse at Notre-Dame-de-Vie.

This exceptional exhibition organized by the Musée National Picasso, which is on view at the Centre d’art La Malmaison, is a snapshot of this creative period. Paintings and sculptures can be viewed side-by-side with radical experiments with paper cut-outs and photographic interpretations created in tandem with the photographer André Villers between 1954 and 1961. Still largely unpublished, these unsettling latter works presage the publication in 1962 of his celebrated portfolio entitled Diurnes (Daylight), accompanied by text written by Jacques Prévert.

In this creative dialogue, one can perceive the budding photographer’s fascination with the modern master, a fascination similar to that still excited by Picasso's whole body of work, emblematic of his era and renowned for its ceaseless inquiry into the mystery of the work of art.

A faithful friend, a lover of poets, humble before the creative act, Pablo Picasso pursued his revolution throughout his life until finally accepting what seemed to him as his final epiphany: “It has taken me a whole lifetime to learn to draw like a child.”

Picasso, Les Chemins du sud (Paths of the South)

While visiting the annual potter’s exhibition in Vallauris in 1946, Picasso stumbled upon Suzanne and Georges Ramié, owners of the Madoura pottery workshop, where he subsequently carried out his first attempts at pottery.

He then decided to devote himself to this new activity, which offered him fresh perspectives on artistic creation. The painter made dishes and plates in his favorite themes (the female form, owls, goats, running of the bulls…) and tirelessly decorated them. He used the most unusual supports, such as broken bricks or modeled objects, appropriated through distortion.

In the Madoura workshop, he made use of Jules Agard’s pottery skills to throw and bake pieces taken from his imagination and the intelligence and finesse of pottery decorator Ivan Orrégia.

Over the next two decades, Picasso made over four thousand original pieces in the workshop. Picasso’s fame produced a magnetic effect around the small town of Vallauris, which received visitors from around the world. Numerous artists came to settle in the town and its surroundings in order to learn ceramic arts and profit from the creative aura of the painter. This creative buzz and the central role of Picasso account for the pottery revival in France of the 1950s, a period which is also referred to as Vallauris’s golden age.

The concept of this exhibition is organized around the painting ‘Smoke over Vallauris’ (1951), on loan from the Musée National Picasso to the Musée Vallauris, and is enriched by a collection of images drawn from André Villers’ snapshots and photo collages of Picasso from the 1950s taken at the Vallauris workshop and the Villa la Californie at Cannes.

The images are enlarged onto large canvasses and displayed on walls in the towns of Vallauris and Cannes, serving as a link between the Musée Vallauris and the Picasso exhibition held at the Centre d’art in partnership with the Musée Picasso.

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July 29, 2012

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