How Ceramics Put a Smile Back on Picasso’s Face

April 14, 2015

Pablo Picasso lived in Paris under German occupation during the Second World War. He kept a low profile while sharing a home with his mistress and muse, photographer Dora Maar. Though he painted, he did not show his work publicly. Later exhibitions revealed how bleak these paintings were: portraits of women with ghastly faces and still lifes featuring skulls and lone candles burning, for example. His color palette was indeed somber: comprised of grays, blacks, browns, and dark greens.

Lot 150, Pablo Picasso, Fish Service, 1947

Lot 150, Pablo Picasso, Fish Service, 1947
May 17, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

A year after the war ended, Picasso returned to the South of France for the summer–he had passed many such seasons there in previous decades. While in the village of Vallauris, the center of a region known for its fine clay, Picasso visited a local ceramics exhibit. He was so impressed with examples from the Madoura Pottery workshop, that he arranged to visit the studio and its owners, Suzanne and Georges Ramié. This tour of Madoura proved to be significant: Picasso’s curiosity was piqued by the possibilities of ceramic and he modeled a few pieces there on the spot. He enjoyed the effects of his painted decorations on blank earthenware plates, dishes and jugs. Picasso returned the following summer–the first of what would become many annual sojourns at Madoura Pottery.

Lot 150, Pablo Picasso, Plate from Fish Service, 1947

Lot 150, Pablo Picasso, Bowl and Plate (from Fish Service,) 1947
May 17, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

After years of painting in gray, muddy hues, with ceramics Picasso once again employed bright, happy colors. And he revisited many of his favorite vigorous motifs: Greek mythological figures, Spanish bullfighting scenes, and animals such as bulls, birds and goats. Working in ceramic clearly put a smile back on Picasso’s face after the moribund war years.


Lot 150, Pablo Picasso, Plate (from Fish Service), 1947
May 17, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

This Fish Service (Lot 150) was conceived of and produced in 1947, the first year that Picasso spent extensive time making pottery. As an image, the fish symbolizes many things in Picasso’s vernacular: joy, energy, and soul. Perhaps, as his first large body of work postwar, the vibrant ceramic dinnerware services are an example of what was a delightful new beginning for Pablo Picasso.

McCully, Marilyn, Michael Raeburn, and Margarida Cortadella. “Introduction.” Picasso Ceramics. Jaqueline’s Gift to Barcelona. Barcelona: Institut De Cultura De Barcelona / Museu Picasso, 2012. Web.
“Press Release: Picasso and the War Years, 1937-1945. Exhibition Examines a Critical Period in the Life and Work of the Century’s Premier Artist.” Guggenheim. 15 Jan. 1998. Web. < room/releases/press-release-archive/1999/715-january-15-picasso-and-the-war-years-1937-1945>.
Stern, Fred. “Picasso and the War Years.” Artnet Magazine., 25 Feb. 1999. Web.  <>.

Lot 150
Pablo Picasso
Fish Service (26)
White earthenware clay, decoration in engobes and oxides under glaze
#43 of 300
Each inscribed “43” and “EDITION/PICASSO” verso; some stamped “D’APRÈS/PICASSO” and “MADOURA/PLEIN/FEU” verso
The complete service comprised of platter, twelve bowls, twelve plates, and a tureen with lid
Ramié #3-28
Various dimensions
Literature: Ramié, Alain. Picasso: Catalogue of the Edited Ceramic Works, 1947-1971. Vallauris: Madoura, 1988. #3-28.
Estimate: $75,000 – 100,000

May 17, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

For more information on this lot or for bidding inquiries, please email a LAMA representative.

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