The Picasso 1932 exhibition that's currently running at Tate Modern (til 9 September 2018) is a bit of an oddity. The Tate's strapline for the show, 'Love, Fame, Tragedy' tries to lend it an air of epic importance. But the work on display is pretty humdrum stuff. Charming, yes; offputting, occasionally, but not epic. But that doesn't mean there isn't much to pique one's curiosity here.
I won't run through the whole story here, the Tate will fill you in on the details, but basically in 1932 Picasso had hit 50, he'd achieved fame and wealth, and was in the middle of having an affair with a woman less than half his age (who is the model, or at least subject, of much of the work on show here). So by this point you'd had Blue Period Picasso, Rose Period Picasso, Cubist Picasso, Classicist Picasso and Pseudo-surrealist Picasso. He'd done a lot. And now it was time to take the foot off the gas for a bit.
Essentially at this stage Picasso could fart and someone would pay a few thousand francs for it, and so in this show we're treated to a lot of Phoning It In Picasso, all playing off former glories. Such as this:
...and, er, this:
There's a fair amount of Just Chilling Picasso in the show. Picasso had recently bought himself a château in Normandy, Boisgeloup, to which he was chauffeur driven whenever he wanted to get away from Paris. There he set up a sculpture studio (some of the best works in the show are the sculptures) and kicked back by painting charming confections like the one at the top of this piece, and the one below, both views of the locality in the rain:
As I mentioned before, the show does have a fair amount of curiosities that illustrate the How of his life at the time as well as the What. Like this unfinished (presumably) painting where he'd noted down on the canvas the colours he eventually couldn't be arsed to fill in:
(As a side note: the set of unfinished or minimal pieces that share the room with the above pieces are interesting in that they demonstrate how refined Picasso's brushwork and ideas became the further along each painting went. His 'line', as distinctive and confident as that of Walt Disney, starts off hesitant and uncertain, shaky even):
Here's Picasso painting on a cardboard box. Because why not?:
And here's Picasso coming over all Henry Hill from 'Goodfellas' when trying to get a gallery in Zurich to make good. I think this pretty much translates as "F*ck you, pay me":
Perhaps the best things in the show are towards the end, a series of drawings on the theme of the Crucifixion. Here we see Picasso thinking through drawing, which is always fascinating. Note the similarity between the final drawing here and basically everything Graham Sutherland ever did:
So there you have it. In a way it's a heartening show, because it demonstrates to any artist who visits that even though we might strive to make every piece we make a masterpiece, the masters themselves could't help but make dodgy work at least 75% of the time. Relax!