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Anne Henry
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Published: 12 June 2018

The History of Picasso Ceramics

While perhaps best known for his vibrant Cubist paintings and prints, Pablo Picasso was also a prolific designer, poet and ceramicist. Picasso began experimenting with ceramics in the 1940s, going on to design more than 600 ceramics throughout the course of his life. At the time, Picasso spent his summers in the south of France, where he visited the annual pottery exhibition in Vallauris in 1946. It was there that Picasso first met Georges and Suzanne Ramié, the couple behind the Madoura pottery workshop and whose work initially inspired Picasso to experiment with the medium. The Ramiés opened their workshop to the artist, allowing him use of their tools and equipment. Thus began a long, fruitful collaboration spanning 25 years, ending in 1971.

Picasso took to ceramics and clay work quickly, finding the medium a fascinating departure from paint, and the slow, methodical production of each piece a respite in the summer heat. He started first creating bowls and plates, before turning to forms such as vase and pitchers. These frequently depicted animal shapes like fish, birds and owls, or faces. The artist produced each piece in editions of 500 or more, intending to make them affordable and easily available to the public. Works could be purchased directly from the Madoura workshop.

In 1953, Picasso met Jacqueline Roque at the workshop; they were married in 1961. Though 44 years his junior, Jacqueline was the muse and prime inspiration for the artist’s prolific output in his later years. Captivated by her large almond-shaped eyes, classical profile and long elegant neck, Picasso created more works of art based on Jacqueline than any of his other lovers; she was his principal subject during the last two decades of his life, a period that has since been referred to as ‘L’Epoque Jacqueline.’

Almost a dozen Picasso ceramics were offered in Freeman’s May 8 Modern & Contemporary Art auction, making it one of the largest assortments the department has offered in a single sale. Included in the selection was “Jacqueline At The Easel,” an earthenware clay round dish depicting his second wife at work.

Lot 16
"WOOD OWL"

1968, numbered 297/500, incised 'EDITION PICASSO R.141' and with the 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' and 'EDITION PICASSO' stamps on the underside.
Sold for $21,250

Lot 16A
"FISH SUBJECT"

1952, from the edition of 500, with the 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. Red earthenware clay with decoration in engobes.
Sold for $5,000

Lot 17
"DOVE SUBJECT"

1959, numbered 41/500, inscribed 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA' and with the 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. White earthenware clay pitcher with decoration in engobes and engraving on enamel.
Sold for $6,875

Lot 18
"FACE"

1969, dated '9.1.69' and numbered 329/500, incised 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA' and with the 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. White earthenware clay pitcher with engraving and decoration in engobes under partial glaze.
Sold for $6,875

Lot 19
"VALLAURIS"

1953, from the edition of 400, with the 'EMPREINTE ORIGINALE DE PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. White earthenware clay plate with engraving and oxidized paraffin under white enamel.
Sold for $4,375

Lot 20
"FULL-FACE FACE"

1960, numbered 54/100, with the 'MADOURA EMPREINTE ORIGINAL DE PICASSO' stamp on the underside. White earthenware clay bowl with engraving and oxidized paraffin under glaze.
Sold for $4,063

Lot 21
"FOUR ENLACED PROFILES"

Conceived in 1949 and executed in an edition of 35, this work is a variant in color and design with decoration on the underside, and with the 'EMPREINTE ORIGINALE DE PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. White earthenware clay plate with decoration in engobes under glaze.
Sold for $13,750

Lot 22
"BIRD ON BRANCH"

1952, from the edition of 500, incised 'EDITION PICASSO' and with the 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. White earthenware clay ashtray with oxidized paraffin decoration and white enamel.
Sold for $2,250

Lot 23
"BULL UNDER THE TREE"

1952, from the edition of 500, inscribed 'EDITION PICASSO' and with the 'EDITION PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside. White earthenware clay plate with oxidized paraffin decoration and white enamel.
Sold for $2,250

Lot 24
"JACQUELINE AT THE EASEL"

1956, numbered 103/200, with the 'EMPREINTE ORIGINALE DE PICASSO' and 'MADOURA PLEIN FEU' stamps on the underside.  White earthenware clay round dish with decoration in engobes under partial brushed glaze.
Sold for $31,250

Freeman’s is now accepting consignments of Modern & Contemporary Art.

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