Picasso and Paper – a blockbuster show at the Royal Academy which celebrates his extensive use of paper in his art. For sketching, doodling, printing, collages and creating paper as form, this show provides a dazzling insight into Picasso’s work practice and prodigious use of the material in so many creative ways. Fabulous.


Reclining Nude Woman
Wallpaper, wove paper with oil and charcoal

What a fabulous work this is.  Made in 1955 is a a reclining female – the model is Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline Roque, whom he met in 1952 – and I just love what he’s done.  It’s a very large piece, on canvas, but he’s used all kinds of wallpaper, plain paper, oil and charcoal to create a work which is dazzling in its originality and beauty.

This piece is just one of over 300 works which have been assembled at the Royal Academy for a terrific show of Picasso’s work which is devoted to the many imaginative and inventive ways he used paper.  Of course he used all kinds of paper in his long career (1881 – 1973).  Yes, there are sketch books, and scraps of paper, wallpaper, newspaper and of course paper to print on.  With Picasso, there seems to be no medium he could not make artistic use of but paper was clearly a favourite. Versatile, strong, inexpensive, available … what’s not to like.  Apparently he would gather up old bits of wallpaper from suppliers and stash them in his studio until the moment was right.

There’s a chronology to the show which is very satisfying.  We are taken on a wonderful odyssey through Picasso’s life and, where there’s an opportunity and the paintings are available for loan, finished works accompany the studies, sketches and doodles on paper which lead up to the finished piece.

I loved this monumental collage using wallpaper and gouache paper pasted onto canvas. 1937-38. Called Femmes a leur toilette, it (possibly) depicts three of the women in his life, including Dora Maar as the central, weeping woman.


Here’s the sketch book with watercolour preparations for The Harem, a precursor to the epic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

These are just three of the paper/card/cardboard and mixed media piece which emerged in 1912/13 with the adventures in cubism.  A block of paper made exactly the statement he wanted, easy to move around, available in any colour, ready printed or painted for the piece. It’s fabulous to see the evolution of his style and enthusiasm for paper.


Couldn’t finish this post without adding in a few drawings on paper. A self portrait 1918, a portrait of Stravinsky 1920 and Bust of Woman, 1907.  What a fantastic show. I want to go back and see it all over again!



Self-portrait 1972, at the age of 90.

Picasso and Paper is on at the Royal Academy until 13th April 2020

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