Collecting Picasso Ceramics

04/19/2023     Prints & Multiples


NEW YORK, NY -- Prints and ceramics by Pablo Picasso provide opportunities for collectors to purchase works of art by one of the most innovative, prolific, and celebrated artists of the 20th century for a fraction of the price of his paintings. The April 25, 2023 auction of Prints & Multiples at Doyle features a fine selection of Picasso editions that range in value (lots 135-157).

While Picasso had been making prints since 1904, it was not until later in life that he became entranced with creating ceramics. He attended the first annual pottery exhibition in Vallauris, France, in 1946. Though the village has a history of pottery-making dating back to Roman times, local interest in the craft had declined. One of the exhibitors was the Madoura workshop owned by Georges and Suzanne Ramie. In 1936, they purchased a complex of old buildings and a wood-fired kiln from a closed facility in Vallauris, where they produced plates and art pottery. Picasso was enamored with the Ramies’ pottery at the show, prompting a trip to their studio. On his first visit to Madoura, Picasso created three small objects: two bulls and the head of a faun. This experience made a strong impression on the artist. He returned the following year with numerous illustrations of ideas he wanted to realize in ceramic form. The Ramies were delighted to welcome Picasso back and provided him with a workspace. Though the artist had first worked in clay forty years earlier, it was not until he came to Madoura that ceramics truly captured his imagination.

Picasso welcomed the idea of making multiples from his unique ceramics, generally in editions of 50 to 500, and was pleased that they would be affordable to a wide audience. Over the next 24 years, he created approximately 3,500 unique ceramic objects and authorized the Ramies to produce more than 633 numbered editions of his work. It was at Madoura in 1953 that he met his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, of whom he created more works of art than any other woman. She inspired many of his ceramics, such as the two Femme (Woman) pitchers from 1955 (lots 146, 147).

Picasso embraced pottery-making with the same zeal as painting, drawing and printmaking. This resulted in a prodigious creative output that characteristically broke through preexisting boundaries. Picasso playfully incorporates the three-dimensional nature of the medium into the design. He transformed utilitarian pieces such as pitcher vases into sculptural objects, the entire form metamorphosing into fauns (lot 137) and heads (136). The face was one of Picasso’s most popular subjects in all artistic media, as illustrated in several plates and pitchers in this sale (lots 147, 148, 152, 153, 155, 156).

Picasso belied the three-dimensionality of ceramic in many of his plates, chargers, and plaques, depicting a flattened image of a traditional painting subject head-on, suggesting work on canvas or paper. He created images as some as he would an etching or drypoint, using a tool to carve the lines – including Tete de Chevre de Profil (lot 138), Poisson Bleu (lot 140) and Scene de Plage (lot 151). Instead of an etching needle on metal, he used unconventional items such as a kitchen knife to cut into a plaster mold, which he took from an existing piece of pottery. Impressions could thus be taken from the plaster matrix to create editions, referred to as Empreintes originales, and bearing the Empreinte Originale de Picasso Madoura pottery stamp.

Created by Picasso late in his career, these 23 extraordinary ceramic objects provide us with yet another glimpse into the artistic vision of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

Prints & Multiples

Auction Tuesday, April 25, 2023 at 11am
Exhibition April 22 - 24

The April 25 auction offers a large selection of Picasso ceramics comprising lots 135 - 157.