Although most of his ceramics were produced in Vallauris, the present work was conceived in 1956 when Picasso moved to Cannes, where he made his home in a villa called La Californie and shot his famous film Le Mystère Picasso. According to art historians, Picasso had clay delivered to his home and would later return it, molded and decorated, to a kiln for firing. While most of Picasso’s ceramics were editioned, the present work Famille, Têtes Laurées: quartre personnages is unique. The hand-painted composition is pieced together with nine square tiles, depicting four family members in a fluid and simplified yet playful style that is instantly recognizable as that of Picasso. An interesting aspect of note is the combination of two opposing media at play: while ceramic is inherently a three-dimensional medium, the image itself is painted on the surface in two dimensions, making this piece as much a graphic work as it is a sculpture. Picasso thus combines volume and surface and transforms the object beyond image into concept. He references this effect in his own words: “It would have sufficed to cut these paintings up…and then assemble them according to the indications given by the color, to find oneself before a ‘sculpture’” (quoted in Roland Penrose, The Life and Work of Picasso, Los Angeles, 1981, p. 265).
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