don’t miss … ‘Picasso and Paper’ at The Royal Academy of Arts

Mask, Paris 1943. fragment of a torn tablecloth by Picasso

Picasso and Paper

Picasso and Paper‘ …. a tantalising title.

I have seen many Picasso portraits and prints over the years, but this exhibition drew me in with its title.

As one who loves paper, I wanted to see what this new show at The Royal Academy of Arts would teach me about the prolific artist that was Picasso.

Paper pig and bird made by Picasso as a child

I was not disappointed. Picasso clearly loved paper too. One of the first exhibits was a pair of small paper cut outs made as a small child. His eye for detail was clearly present at an early age.

Imprint of scrumpled paper in plaster. 1934. Picasso

The variety of media that he used, and the sheer volume of his output are made clear in this exhibition. He drew, he painted, he copied, he reinvented, he collaged, he printed, and above all he showed a great sense of humour. One that I had not been made aware of in previous exhibitions.

pen and ink sketches on a copy of Vogue 1951 – Picasso

His fascination with the work of others, and the way he used these as a source of inspiration and creative drive is hammered home in a room containing Picasso’s multiple takes on ‘le dejeuner sur l’herbe’ by Manet. He printed with lino cut , painted, drew and painted again his own versions of the iconic painting. A reminder to all artists that everything we do is influenced in some way by what we have already seen and known.

‘le dejeuner sur l’herbe’ after Manet | Picasso 1962

Likewise with ‘Les femmes d’Alger’ in 1955. Picasso created 15 paintings and numerous drawings based on the original painting by Delacroix.

‘Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement’ | Delacroix 1834
‘Les femmes d’Alger’ after Delacroix, version H 1955 | Picasso


The ephemera are numerous and fascinating.

From sample papers, to letters, to notes on envelopes to cut out tablecloths and brown paper.

sample papers from canson
Mask, Paris 1943. fragment of a torn tablecloth | Picasso
Ink drawing on hotel paper depicting Olga and Picasso in Naples 1917 | Picasso
Picasso and Paper exhibition
‘Tete de cheval’ – poem, pen , ink and gouache Picasso 1936

The ephemera might not have survived today in our de-cluttering culture. We should be grateful that he was a hoarder.


His use of everyday materials in collage is fascinating, and emphasises his drive to create with whatever materials he can find.

‘Glass, bottle of wine, packet of tobacco, newspaper’ – Picasso 1914

Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are considered to be the first artists to develop collage as a way to make art in the early 20th century.

The word collage was derived from the french ‘coller‘, which meant ‘to stick’ or ‘to glue’. Sometimes he just used pins….

detail with pins from ‘Bottle of old Marc and Newspaper Cerec” 1913 | Picasso

Using a mixture of paper, newspaper, wallpaper and other found materials Picasso made collage in the cubist style.

The bird below is made with paper, photographic wrapping paper and string, cut torn and pinned on cardboard, with charcoal.

I love the way he creates the cage using the background paper and then uses charcoal on the bird..

Bird in a Cage | Picasso 1918

The list of materials for the collaged etching ‘The Diver’ is unusual ….

Arches woven paper with muslin, confetti, cotton wool and blotting paper.

The etching appears to me like a hand-stitched drawing, but this illusion may be by my association with the fabrics.

The Diver | Picasso 1932

The exhibition is huge. I found I needed two visits to enjoy the whole show.

The highlight of my second visit was a video showing the artist at work.

He is very amusing……

Picasso at work

There is so much more…… and you have got until 13 April to discover it.

Just go!

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