How Picasso learned to draw

A selection of childhood drawings by Picasso at The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art gives us a rare glimpse into the early years of Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso was not only a groundbreaking artist, he was also an outstanding imitator. This is not least evident in his early works, in which he both replicated and stole from others – like most artists do before they find their own way. But his first efforts also show what an extraordinary talent he was. Picasso’s father was an art teacher and made sure his son started his art education at the mere age of 10. This summer The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art outside Copenhagen shows 28 of Picasso’s early drawings from his time as an art student in La Coruna in the 1890s via the art academies in Barcelona and Madrid to the rural, freer life in the city of Horta de San Juan. Drawing and painting more or less dominated Picasso’s childhood, and he was quick to catch on.   “At fourteen I could draw like Rafael,” he liked to say. The curators of this exhibition agree with him.

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Self portrait, Barcelona or Paris, 1901, made when the artist was 20 years old. Museu Picasso, Barcelona.

Every day life is a recurring theme in Picasso’s drawings and paintings as a child and young man – people rather than landscape. There is a lot of humor and sharp observations in these images, some of them bordering on caricatures. They probably tell something about what he was studying at a given time, “Drawing live models”, “Coloring and composition “and” Landscape “was all part of the curriculum.

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The Umbrellas, La Coruna, 1892, drawn by Picasso when he was 11 years old. Museu Picasso, Barcelona.

This exhibition in part of the series Louisiana on Paper, and like most of the installments in the series, it is rather modestly laid out. What it lacks in size it makes up for in relevance, however. The museum deserves a lot of praise for the concept itself, which highlights some of history’s most celebrated artists – among them Joseph Beys, David Hockney and Lucian Freud – through tat tangible and fairly humble medium: Paper. The result is often a different approach to their artistic ventures through sketches, visual diaries or recurring themes presented in smaller formats.

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Manuel Pallarés seated with a pitcher at his feet, Horta de Sant Joan, 1898. Museu Picasso, Barcelona.

This time we are given the rare opportunity to see the drawings of a child and teenager who lived to be one of the most significant innovators in art history – Picasso before Picasso. Not least thanks to his sister, who had the foresight to take care of these early artistic attempts after their parents died. The drawings are kept safe at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, but thankfully are allowed to travel from time to time. A real treat if you are in Denmark this summer.

Picasso before Picasso at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art until September 11th.

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