A new exhibition maintains the artist’s reputation as an atheist with an occasional interest in Christian themes.
A series that looks at the visual arts for signs of the universal Church in sometimes unexpected places.
There’s a proliferation of Picasso material at the moment: paintings, sculptures, ceramics and above all drawings. For works on paper, the definitive exhibition has just opened at the Royal Academy in London. Although many art lovers doubt Picasso’s abilities as a painter and as a person, everyone would agree that he could draw. At “Picasso and Paper” I went in search of some spiritual content. Even within the spontaneous medium of sketching, he maintains his reputation as an atheist with an occasional interest in the Crucifixion. Even this was limited to re-imagining the famously gory Isenheim altarpiece, painted in the 16th century for a German monastery. Despite his aversion to Christian themes, Picasso did pick up on the theme of the good shepherd; it probably seemed to him like nymphs and fauns at play. Here is his rather harsh interpretation of a subject that is usually the gentlest thing after the Nativity. It’s in bronze, although there is a softer preparatory sketch on paper. Part of the Christian message seems to have gotten through, although the sheep looks decidedly anxious about the goodness of this shepherd.
Lucien de Guise is on Instagram @crossxcultural. As a Catholic writer, editor, curator and former museum director, his aim is to build bridges through art.
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