Picasso Portraits / National Portrait Gallery

Visits, Visits and Talks

Earlier this month I visited the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square to see the Picasso Portraits exhibition. The exhibition featured over 80 pieces of Picasso’s work spanning his creative career; the wide range of work was loaned by various institutions, galleries and private collections, it’s also the first time many of these pieces have been shown in London. Picasso is one of the artists I studied back in school doing my art GCSE so I was very excited to visit. The first thing that struck me about the exhibit was the range of different styles in Picasso’s work, from humorous caricatures to the wilder and much more expressive painting from memory later in his career. Picasso used a range of materials and mediums experimenting with different styles of painting and drawing throughout his life and this is evident in the pieces shown in this collection.


Pablo Picasso was born in Spain in 1881 but spent most of his adult life working as an artist in France. “Throughout the long course of his career, he created more than 20,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics and other items such as costumes and theater sets. He is universally renowned as one of the most influential and celebrated artists of the twentieth century.” Picasso is remembered for his constantly evolving and innovative works and along side  Georges Braque is responsible for creating the Cubist movement in art. Cubism is where a subject of an image is broken up into pieces and then rearranged in an abstract form. What really strikes me about these pieces is that there is less of a focus on conventional form and structure but the emotion and personality of the subject is still very evident through the use of bold marks, colours and even the textures of paint and brush strokes on the canvas.

It was brilliant to see some of the pieces that inspired me as a teenager in the flesh. But the thing I enjoyed most about this collection was seeing some of Picasso’s illustrations. Picasso created around 35,000 illustrations  in his life! As an illustrator I am constantly looking to push my own creative practice forward and to allow my style to evolve with my passion and interests. It’s inspiring to see how much energy and emotion can be conveyed in very few marks and lines through Picasso’s illustrative style, it was also great to see how Picasso’s illustrations developed through his career.

I spent hours wondering around the exhibit and drew sections of painting on site, I then spent the afternoon sitting in the crypt cafe of St Martin in the Fields Church (If you haven’t been, you should totally go!) and used watercolour, ink and pencils to colour my sketches. So overall, Picasso is great and we should all have different artistic periods in our lives.

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.” – Pablo Picasso


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