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I explained in a previous post how I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to art – I know what I like and have no deep and meaningful explanation of why I like it particularly. Those who know me personally might find it odd that I would want to go to a Picasso exhibition, and even an exhibition with the word ‘modern’ in the title, but I loved the idea of being able to see links between different artists’ works. This exhibition did not disappoint. I have selected a few interesting titbits but you should really go yourself – it’s fantastic.

I have always found it difficult to appreciate any art that does not show something as it would be if it were in front of you. The more realistic a painting is then the more I can access it, as I can understand what is going on in the painting. The same applies to sculpture.

Regarding what I’m going to inaccurately term ‘modern art’ (as I call anything from impressionism to today), this neat little greetings card I found at the Tate gift shop nicely sums up my feelings.

This feeling has changed over time a little, particularly since I saw the fabulous Grayson Perry exhibition at the BM, where he had put little explanations about how his work connected to the BM pieces and I felt like a little light-bulb went off in my head. These modern art people actually know what they’re doing when they’re not creating ‘realistic’ pieces of art – there is another level to them which I just had not understood before.

Armed with this optimistic/sceptical approach I sauntered off to the Tate having heard the basic premise of this exhibition. Here are a few highlight pieces.

Wyndam Lewis - A Reading of Ovid (1920-1)

So I’m starting with a piece that’s not even by Picasso…this exhibition introduced me to so many new things! I loved this painting because it really captured what I imagine was the feeling when reading some of Ovid’s racier lines at that time. Even the books themselves are red. It is also easy to relate to now – I know when I first came across some ‘dirty’ Latin (pedicabo ego et vos irrumabo was one of my AS set texts and that line is seared into my Latin) there was this sense that you shouldn’t really be looking at this (as exhibited by the figure on the right), but part of you can’t resist (the figure on the left). The faces and hands of each figure in the painting have been infected by the verse: once you read it, it is with you forever.

Picasso, Nude on the Beach

Pablo Picasso - Nude on the Beach (1932)

Pablo Picasso - The Source (1921)

I’ve put these next two of my favourites from the exhibition together because I would not believe they were by the same artist without the captions. And yet…there is a connection in the theme and the pose. The classical face in ‘The Source’ is Picasso at his most realistic but he is unable to conform (and why should he?) as it is out of proportion with the rest of the body. This is my need to see things as realistically as possible shining through I’m afraid! I’m sure there are ways in which ‘nude on a beach’ is more ‘realistic’ but I’m not quite there yet. Anyway, the other reason why I picked these two was to show the connection the exhibition made to the following sculpture:

Henry Moore - Reclining Figure (1936)

Some of Henry Moore’s sketchbooks were placed nearby, with sketches of nudes alongside the name Picasso underlined a few times. He was clearly influenced by Picasso and it was a real experience to see these things next to each other. There was (is?) clearly a lot of love and respect between different artists.

My favourite painting of the exhibition was actually Picasso’s version of a Velázquez painting which I would usually be more inclined to prefer. Velázquez fits into my ideal as a painter, painting things exactly as they would appear if they were in front of you.

Velazquez - Las Meninas (1656)

There is a clear sense of depth to this painting which I love, plus the artist himself is portrayed here. I also love all the different characters in the painting all occupied with different things while the artist is trying to capture the moment.

Pablo Picasso - Las Meninas (1957)

Picasso’s version has the same features that I like about the Velázquez version: the clear sense of depth, the artist features, and the characters are equally well portrayed. Picasso has replaced the duller palate with a brighter representation which I love. I have since found out that there are many versions of the Velázquez ‘las meninas’ by lots of artists, and even versions of Picasso’s version.

As an amateur appreciator of art, I can see my tastes evolving as I begin to understand that it’s not just about conveying a realistic reflection of people and the environment, but it can also be about conveying emotions and feelings.

The artworks here are a small taste of a huge exhibition which runs until July. This sounds like a long time but it will sell out soon: I was one of the lucky ones who got a ticket to da Vinci at the National Gallery because I booked well in advance. There were long queues at the Tate for those buying on the day so I would suggest pre-booking, check the Tate website for availability and more information.

I am awaiting my copy of the exhibition guide – I did what I always do, and decided against getting it at the gallery, but later decided I wanted it!

This exhibition for me was a huge step in the right direction – I’m not sure that path will lead me to the Tate Modern quite yet, but modern art at the Tate Britain is a big enough leap. Maybe I will not walk straight past the impressionists at the National Gallery in future, but stop and take a look.

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