What Makes Picasso Ceramics Collectible?

By Sotheby's
Incorporating a range of techniques, subjects, and forms, Picasso’s ceramics, produced in limited editions, suit every interior. Sotheby’s London’s upcoming sale, Picasso’s Menagerie: A Collector’s Legacy , which will take place on 9 April, presents an impressive array of the Master’s forms, offering a ceramic for every collector with low estimates ranging from £500 to £80,000.

O ne fateful day in 1946, Picasso visited an exhibition of local crafts in the Côte d'Azur, where he met Vallauris-based ceramicist Suzanne Ramié. Head of the family-run Madoura pottery, Ramié invited the artist to her nearby atelier that very afternoon. The ever-curious Picasso immediately set to work experimenting in clay, producing two bulls and a petite faun’s head on the spot. He eagerly returned to the workshop in 1947, where he was to spend the next 25 years creating an astounding 633 different ceramic editions.

Techniques for the Minimalist and Maximalist

Picasso’s two preferred techniques were used to execute his editions: replication by hand, and replication by hand-made dry mould. The editioned ceramics produced by his hand-shaped moulds are tellingly stamped ‘Empreinte Originale de Picasso’. Each type was further incised, glazed, and/or painted, rendering forms that are admired by both the Minimalist and Maximalist.

A nod to classic blue and white porcelain, glossily glazed and painted forms such as La Pique (Lot 31) might appeal to the antiques connoisseur looking to add a dash of modernism to their collection of china. On the other hand, Picasso’s vibrant, textural incised and painted vessels, such as the sunny Chouette (Lot 4), offer a pop of colour best suited to sleek white interiors.

Forms for the Classicist and Modernist

Inspired by the long history of ceramic art, Picasso reinvented traditional forms, updating them with his anthropomorphic and zoomorphic designs. Classicists and Modernists alike can appreciate his take on ancient pottery.

Visage (Lot 129) appears to be Picasso’s interpretation of the ancient lekythos, while forms such as the animated Visage aux yeux rieurs (Lot 132) and the understated Pichet gravé gris (Lot 127) mimic classical oenochoe and olpe.

Style & Motif

Turning to pottery later in life, Picasso revisited the motifs and subjects he originally explored throughout his venerable career as a painter-printmaker. Admirers of Picasso’s early, academic work might appreciate his reductive silhouettes on smooth surfaces, such as the elegant Profil de Jacqueline (Lot 116). Cubist enthusiasts might recognize similarities between his iconic canvas Le Rêve and voluptuous Vase deux anses hautes (Lot 135), while admirers of Surrealist Picasso might be drawn to the complex and clever Lampe femme (Lot 137).

Picasso’s Menagerie: A Collector’s Legacy offers unique access to the explorations and experiments of Picasso the ceramist. Surveying his entire career at Madoura, the sale offers something for every collector across every category, emphasizing Picasso’s boundless talent. For more information on these ceramics and others in the sale, please contact the Prints Department at Prints.London@sothebys.com.

CLICK HERE to view the full sale catalogue.

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