A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso

Ye Fengting
A photographic exhibition of celebrated artist Pablo Picasso taken between 1950 and 1965 offers a glimpse into the artist's personality and reveals his youthful mind.
Ye Fengting

Pablo Picasso's iconic masterpieces are known all over the world, but less is known about his personal life.

A photo exhibition in Shanghai offers a glimpse into the unseen facets of this famous 20th-century master.

"He was a god. He must understand that he had to constantly disguise himself to succeed. So, he wore masks as he strived to progress. What kind of person was he? What comprised his creative vision? What was the real Picasso? These will undoubtedly be the inquiries people will pose in the future," said well-known Spanish writer Pio Baroja of Picasso.

A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso
Edward Quinn / Ti Gong

A photo taken by Edward Quinn in 1959 of Pablo Picasso with a Spanish wicker mask of a bull.

This year marks Picasso's 50th death anniversary. The Miguel de Cervantes Library and the Picasso Museum Malaga have collaborated on the exhibition "Picasso Portrayed, Picasso Masked" in Shanghai.

The exhibition features 32 images of Picasso, taken between 1950 and 1965 by five photographers who knew the artist well: David Douglas Duncan, Andre Villers, Edward Quinn, Lucien Clergue and Roberto Otero.

Picasso's face is, at least partially, hidden in a mask in all of the photographs. The exhibition gives visitors a glimpse into his private life through the eyes of some of the 20th century's most celebrated photographers.

A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso
Ti Gong

In the 1950s, photography and cameras became increasingly popular, spawning illustrated publications with celebrity photos.

"Picasso soon recognized that for an artist to thrive in modern society, it was crucial to establish a great public image to increase popularity," said José Lebrero, artistic director of the Picasso Museum Malaga.

"He invited American combat photographer David Douglas Duncan and other photographers to his villa, La Californie, which is his home and studio, to document his daily life on camera."

The photographs depict a cheerful and enthusiastic Picasso with his family and friends, revealing a previously unseen side of the artist. Picasso appeared approachable and affable, reducing the gap between him and the public.

Despite the fact that the images were taken when Picasso was in his 70s, they show an artist with a youthful mind and soul, full of vitality.

A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso
Ti Gong

Photos featuring Pablo Picasso (left) and Jean Cocteau taken by David Douglas Duncan in 1957

His personal magnetism as well as his distinctive gestures caught the attention of photographers.

Picasso was a painter known for his powerful creativity and lifelong commitment to artistic innovation. He sought subversion, rebellion and invention that appealed to photographers.

"Picasso had a keen sense of humor and was constantly changing his image to entertain. Sometimes he disguised himself as a dangerous figure, sometimes as a clown, and other times as an animal," Lebrero said.

Visitors to the exhibition will be impressed by his ever-changing style of presenting himself and his exploration of new forms of artistic expression.

A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso
Ti Gong

Various images of Picasso are exhibited.

"Picasso actively interacted with the photographer, almost as if they were playing tennis," Lebrero explained.

"Probably no other artist of his time was so thoroughly photogenic, or totally at ease while being photographed, as Picasso," American photographer David Douglas Duncan once recalled. "Whether with friends, at work, or lolling in his bathtub, he seemed indifferent to a camera. He never even blinked. He radiated the innocent purity of children and the command presence of an emperor."

The tradition of wearing masks can be found across the world, and Picasso inherited it from Spain's long tradition of masks.

"In traditional Chinese culture, face painting in operas serves a function similar to wearing masks," observed Lebrero. "When opera actors paint their faces and put on makeup, they transform into the characters they are portraying, which is distinct from their real-life selves.

"Also, male actors frequently play female characters in Peking Opera."

A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso
Ti Gong

Artworks by Chinese artist Wu Jian'an titled "Invisible Faces" are also on display.

Chinese artist Wu Jian'an's collection of works titled "Invisible Faces" is also on show in the Miguel de Cervantes Library at the exhibition. The artist uses glass sculpture to revisit Chinese and European mask traditions and blur the boundaries between reality and disguise.

The mask is depicted as a transparent shell in this series. Within it is a miniature mirrored head that appears to depict the "truth" hiding beneath the "mask." The transformed and distorted faces depict the constant interaction between the inner and outer worlds from various perspectives.

A glimpse into the multifaceted persona of Picasso
Ti Gong

Visitors cover themselves with a variety of masks at the exhibition.

Exhibition info:

Date: Through October 8, 11am-6:30pm

Admission: Free

Venue: Miguel de Cervantes Library

Address: 208 Anfu Rd


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