Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)


Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Málaga, Spain. The son of an academic painter, José Ruiz Blanco, he began to draw at an early age. In 1895, the family moved to Barcelona, and Picasso studied there at La Lonja, the academy of fine arts. His visit to Horta de Ebro from 1898 to 1899 and his association with the group at the café Els Quatre Gats about 1899 were crucial to his early artistic development. In 1900, Picasso’s first exhibition took place in Barcelona, and that fall he went to Paris for the first of several stays during the early years of the century. Picasso settled in Paris in April 1904, and soon his circle of friends included Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Gertrude and Leo Stein, as well as two dealers, Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.

His style developed from the Blue Period (1901–04) to the Rose Period (1905) to the pivotal work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and the subsequent evolution of Cubism from an Analytic phase (ca. 1908–11), through its Synthetic phase (beginning in 1912–13). Picasso’s collaboration on ballet and theatrical productions began in 1916. Soon thereafter, his work was characterized by neoclassicism and a renewed interest in drawing and figural representation. In the 1920s, the artist and his wife, Olga (whom he had married in 1918), continued to live in Paris, to travel frequently, and to spend their summers at the beach. From 1925 into the 1930s, Picasso was involved to a certain degree with the Surrealists, and from the fall of 1931 he was especially interested in making sculpture. In 1932, with large exhibitions at the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, and the Kunsthaus Zürich, and the publication of the first volume of Christian Zervos’s catalogue raisonné, Picasso’s fame increased markedly.


By 1936, the Spanish Civil War had profoundly affected Picasso, the expression of which culminated in his painting Guernica (1937, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid). Picasso’s association with the Communist Party began in 1944. From the late 1940s, he lived in the South of France. Among the enormous number of Picasso exhibitions that were held during the artist’s lifetime, those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1939 and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 1955 were most significant. In 1961, the artist married Jacqueline Roque, and they moved to Mougins. There Picasso continued his prolific work in painting, drawing, prints, ceramics, and sculpture until his death April 8, 1973


Picasso was one of the true giants in the history of art. His works broke down barriers, ignited controversy and have influenced artists for generations.


In 1904, Pablo Picasso moved to France and embarked on a course of perpetual experimentation that continued until his death. Picasso’s restless creative nature caused him to delve into every medium including ceramics.



Since the days of ancient Rome, Vallauris, in the south of France, has been known for its fine clay and pottery. It has attracted artists and craftsmen from France and abroad eager to work in its exceptionally pure clay. In 1946, while attending an exhibition of pottery making in Vallauris, Picasso met Georges and Suzanne Ramié, proprietors of the Madoura ceramics workshop. After observing their potters at work, Picasso sat at a borrowed bench, and enthusiastically created his first three ceramic figures. The infinite creative possibilities of ceramics that combined drawing, painting and sculpture so excited Picasso that he returned to the Madoura workshop the next summer with sketches for new pieces, the first of many unique ceramics he was to create over the next 27 years.


So passionate about his new medium of expression, Picasso put aside the painter's life in Paris for the potter's life in Vallauris. Working briskly and instinctively, Picasso amazed the craftsmen around him who believed his bold treatment of materials and creative experiments were so unusual they thought them bound to fail in the firing. But to the surprise of all, Picasso's daring experiments with shaping unbaked clay, applying unusual glazes, slips and metal oxides, produced brilliant results.

Soon he was deftly modeling graceful women, whimsical doves, owls, bulls, faunes and centaurs. He painted plates, vases, platters and tiles with scenes of women, animals, bullfights and other favourite themes from his painting repertoire. Also he approached this new medium much the way he approached his graphics i.e. as an opportunity to produce replicas and editions. To achieve the latter he created a ceramic prototype from which a plaster mold was made. Picasso then directed the production of a limited edition which was composed of 25 to 500 examples.


Picasso's ceramics were so unique and exciting, they sparked an enduring interest in the art of ceramics. The recent Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Royal Academy of Art in London exhibitions confirmed that the ceramic work of Picasso is a true art form, equal in imagination, originality and execution to his paintings, drawings and sculptures.


“It was on the 21st July 1946 that Picasso, sojourning at the home of his friend and engraver, Louis Fort, at Golfe-Juan, decided to visit the annual potters exhibition in Vallauris.


What were his actual intentions? Was it for the sake of a visit or rather to discover something that could capture his interest?


The fact remains that he let himself be trapped by the mischievous genius he thought he could provoke. As the organisers of the exhibition were commenting on each exhibitor’s pieces, he took a particular interest in the Madoura stall, and asked to be introduced to the authors of these works.
Suzanne and Georges Ramié then welcomed him in the Madoura Pottery workshop. He thus readily ended that day, grappling with the fresh clay and modelling two subjects which were left to be dried and baked.


Only one year later Picasso came back and asked about his two pieces. Much to his delight, they were shown to him in excellent condition. He at once asked to get back to work.


Hi request was granted! A part of the workshop was arranged for his behalf, and he promptly set to work, taking from a portfolio sketches that he certainly drew in anticipation of that moment.


Picasso tackled ceramics with his genius and prodigious creative imagination, under the close initiation of Suzanne Ramié who provided him with her vast knowledge of the tricks of the craft.


Then it came to pass that after an intense period of work, he sought the ability to repeat certain of his works.


It was the essential to transpose into ceramic reality the method already put into practice in graphic art, but for this new application, the basis of the graphic design originated from very different principles.


This particular difficulty was solved by adopting two methods, whose various techniques were carefully examined:
1st: the authentic replica of an original by exact repeating of volumes and illuminations.
2nd: the transfer from an original subject engraved on a hardened plaster matrix, by applying a fresh ceramic sheet to take clay impression.


This second method, called “Original print of Picasso”, is authenticated by a stamp engraved on the reverse side of each piece.


These two methods combined are commonly called “Ceramic editions of Picasso”.


In both cases, pieces so edited are certified by an edition monogram or graphic sign that appears on the reverse side, neck or base; and for some of them by the piece number within the production series.”


Alain Ramié