Portraits of an artist:’Picasso, Photographer’s Gaze’ opens in Barcelona

A marine stripe jumper, a crown of grey hair surrounding his bald spot and a penetrating gaze: it is an image that has become emblematic of Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist adored by some of the 20th century's greatest photographers.

Portraits of an artist:'Picasso, Photographer's Gaze' opens in Barcelona
a photograph by French photographer Robert Doisneau of Picasso taken in 1952. All Photos: AFP

A new exhibition in his museum in Barcelona, “Picasso, Photographer's Gaze”, is a journey through the artist's life through pictures, some of them taken by Picasso himself and others with him as the protagonist.   

Included is a 1952 portrait by French photographer Robert Doisneau in which the painter appears for the first time with his trademark marine striped jumper behind a window, leaning on the glass.

By then, Picasso was living in the south of France where he would spend the last years of his life as a celebrity, under the lens of prestigious photographers like Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassai or David Douglas Duncan.

“Picasso is photogenic. He'd had that awareness since he was very young and played with this image,” says Violeta Andres, curator of the exhibition that opens on Friday.

“He was one of the first to understand the power of image… And instead of shutting himself up and not letting anyone enter his space, he let himself be seen but always controlled his image.”

Dozens of photographers came to his home, taking portraits of Picasso and his studio, full of various works of art, but few managed to get him “working for real, in a spontaneous gesture.”

With the exception perhaps of his lover, surrealist photographer Dora Maar.   

In a series of 1937 portraits in his Paris studio, she was able to show Picasso forgetting the camera, engrossed in making one of his greatest creations, “Guernica”.

“It's one of the few photos in which he allowed us to really see his creative intimacy,” says Andres.

On top of portraits, the exhibition also includes photos taken by the artist himself as well as works born from his collaboration with photographers like Maar or Andre Villers.

READ ALSO: Eight highlights from Madrid's PhotoEspaña 2019

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.


In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.