Pablo Picasso - MeMyselfandI

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David Douglas Duncan, Picasso with an Indian headdress, a gi
David Douglas Duncan, Picasso with an Indian headdress, a gi© Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Pablo Picasso, the influential artist most recently referenced in the S/S12 Jil Sander collection, is currently the subject of an exhibition showcasing photographs of the artist taken over a period of five decades...

Who? Pablo Picasso, the late Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was recently referenced by Raf Simons in the Jil Sander S/S12 collection. Simons called him the "icon of modernism". Continuing in the same vein as the abstract, Calder-esque prints he used on knitwear for Jil Sander A/W11, Simons looked to the ceramics that Picasso created in Vallauris, rendering their abstracted 2-D visages on neat knit sweaters. This was the first time the Picasso estate has allowed their use.

What? The legendary artist is currently celebrated in an exhibition at Museum Ludwig. Rather than drawing from his estimated 50,000 artworks, the exhibition focuses on Picasso himself, the "brilliant and inspired self-promoter" [as described by the exhbition's curators] showcasing around 200 images of him taken over a period of five decades. These include staged portraits, classic sittings, and snapshots. Picasso was one of the most frequently photographed celebrities of the last century, captured by Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Irving Penn and Lee Miller – some of whom made a career out of portraying the artist, lending their work to magazines, books and promotional posters. Through this collection of striking images, we see the indisputably photogenic artist at work in his Paris studio; at home with his Afghan dog Kazbek; in various international locations; in amusing scenarios; and enjoying time with close friends.

MeMyselfandI – Photo Portraits of Picasso is the first exhibition to examine the tense relationship between Picasso’s wish to control the presentation of his public persona, and the ambitions and ideas of leading photographers. His friend, the critic George Besson once said, "Nothing is more daring than the attempt to define Picasso, the man more famous than Buddha or the Virgin Mary, more unpredictable than a crowd". The current exhibition and accompanying book not only show the faces and places that shaped the artist's life, but communicate a sense of the complex world of relationships that were important for Picasso's remarkable biography.

MemyselfandI – Photo Portraits of Picasso runs at Museum Ludwig, Cologne until January 15 2012 and Museo Picasso Málaga March 5 – June 10 2012. The accompanying book is published by Hatje Cantz.

Text by Laura Bradley