“Picasso didn’t just draw on paper – he tore it, burnt it, and made it three-dimensional. From studies for ‘Guernica’ to a 4.8-metre-wide collage, this major exhibition brings together more than 300 works on paper spanning the artist’s 80-year career.”

Introduction to the exhibition on the RA website


Coming out of an event at the Linnean Society I stood under the front arch at Burlington House reluctant to go out into the driving rain and howling gale that was driving down Piccadilly. So, on the spur of the moment, instead of turning right I turned left and ran up to the Royal Academy with the intention of finding a cup of tea and a slice of cake. It was this, I am ashamed to say, rather than a cultural opportunity that took me to the Picasso and Paper exhibition that dark January afternoon.

Laid out over several galleries are a series of works of enormous breadth and depth. A lifetime’s work and creativity and the observer can make the journey with Picasso from beginning to end. There are endless examples of innovation and inspiration that at times it can be overwhelming. Some of his notebooks are available for scrutiny. Above all else you can follow the development of his artistic expression and thinking.

Perhaps the most moving and evocative period is when, during the paper shortages of World War Two Paris, Picasso uses any and all scraps of paper available, no matter what they are. This leads to some extraordinarily moving images on paper which is itself as much a representation and expression as any drawing is - such a vivid reminder of shortage and deprivation being met with human genius and resilience.

All through his life he experimented with different types of papers, techniques, and treatments. The range of output is staggering. In the short guide book there are no less than thirty-five terms in the glossary ‘Papery Processes’ explained to cover the range of Picasso’s work.

There is a short black and white film of showing Picasso demonstrating a particular style of work and it is mesmerising to watch how he creates image on image that eventually delivers a quite different representation to the one he started out drawing. It is quite mesmerising to watch Picasso at work.

The exhibition is well arranged and itself has a feeling of light and space which makes a visit enjoyable. It is systematic and straightforward. There are good explanations of what’s happening and what the context is to each evolution and time period.

Picasso worked and engaged with paper in many different forms and formats throughout his life and to be able to follow it through from beginning to end, to see how his creativity developed and responded to changing circumstance is a moving and stimulating experience. It is a most fascinating and engaging exhibition. If you can do visit.


At the Royal Academy until 13 April

For more information: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/picasso-and-paper