Sunday morning visit to ‘Picasso & Modern British Art’

It’s an early start for us this Sunday (especially since wer’e still feeling the aftershock of Friday night’s PV of ‘Needle’s Eye at Transition Gallery). So we thought it would be relaxing to stroll around the new show at Tate Britain, ‘Picasso & Modern British Art’.

Somehow we failed to consider that it may be a popular show until we approached an entrance filled with blue rinses and their husbands. After a scramble to evade the masses queing for ‘whatever’ we managed to join the early morning members who’d booked a private viewing. The place was packed!

The show moves chronologically through a number of rooms exploring Picasso’s output and it’s effect on British artists, placing relevant examples of the master’s work against his followers. I must say that for the most part the followers remain poor examples of their leader. The problem is that early Twentieth Century British art remains that -with a refusal by artists to leave reserved Britishness behind them and embrace the open enthusiasm of a European model that provided an environment for artists they admired to flourish (we still seem to retain an element of that British reserve). The worst offenders are the Bloomsbury Group with their work looking like pretty decorative design next to Picasso’s raw, animalistic ‘primitive’ still life – so full of energy and power that it reduces one to tears when looking at our nations response.

The most positive influence appears in the work of foreign migrants like Wyndham Lewis leaving the ‘British’ component to finally catch up in the late 1930’s with Sutherland and Moore, each taking from the master what they needed to follow their own vision. This approach proves to be the most successful use of Picasso’s influence as Bacon and Hockney take from it to define the end of the century.

There are some amazing works in there (one of the pleasures of a Picasso show is that there will always be the possibility of a work from a private collection that I’ve never seen before, and there are a few in this show), unfortunately we only had a short visit (about 15 mins, due to work commitments), but hope for a longer & quieter visit in the future.

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