The Beauty in the Fiery Beast: Pablo Picasso’s Wonderful Obsession with Pottery
What makes owning a Picasso ceramic so enticing? Why are they in such demand? To understand the Picasso ceramics story, one must go back to the beginning, to the summer of 1946, when the artist was staying in the south of France and chose to visit a crafts fair. At the fair Picasso noticed the works of Madoura potters and asked Georges and Suzanne Ramie, who operated the studio, to provide him with the opportunity to work with ceramics and the rest as we all know is history.
From 1947 to 1971 the Ramies set aside space in their studio for Picasso to pot whenever he pleased. In return, Picasso allowed the Ramies to make and sell editions of the ceramic pieces he produced at Madoura, and to retain all profits. Picasso personally made thousands of individual ceramic pieces, and kept virtually all of his own thrown pieces, most of which are now owned by his family or by museums. This consumption with the medium is best described by Georges Ramie, “This inner force that takes passion of him hastens his inventive progress in an effort to assuage this unquenchable thirst to express the message of the moment. To express it but also to consume it, in the course of long duration in which an obsessive theme is taken up again and again in proliferating and continually renewed variations, reflecting the teeming intensity of the changing aspects of the composition.” (pg. 19)
The Madoura studio and Picasso together produced 4,000 different plates, bowls, vases, pitchers, and other forms in limited editions ranging from 25 to 500. Picasso’s involvement in producing the objects varied. Sometimes he made the clay molds used for designs, while other times he painted on plates or pitchers taken from the drying racks. Picasso and Madoura’s artisans then finished the prototypes and produced the editions, each distinctly identifiable as coming from the imagination of Picasso.
Picasso had such a passion for the medium and certainly enhanced his skills as an artisan as can be seen in the craftsmanship that has lasted over 60 years, both in value and beauty. As Georges Ramie states, “he gave himself up to it heart and soul, with that tireless vehemence he brought to everything, the indomitable ardor of those vocations that are all the more fruitful for being slow to appear. And it was from that moment- and thanks to the prestige of the work Picasso was yet to do- that ceramics, which many had always considered a minor art, began to enjoy an eminence hitherto unsuspected and now universally admitted” (pg. 17). A wonderful balance between tradition, innovation, partnership and creativity, it is not hard to understand why Picasso’s ceramics are so universally collected and cherished.
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