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Picasso at Madoura: A Ceramic Bird Captured in Mid-Flight

Published on , by Vanessa Schmitz-Grucker
Auction on 05 April 2023 - 14:15 (CEST) - Salle 10 - Hôtel Drouot - 75009

At the Madoura Studio in Vallauris, Provence, Picasso created an iconographic repertoire steeped in antiquity, including the Gros oiseau vert (Large Green Bird) vase specially designed for Georges and Suzanne Ramié.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Gros oiseau vert (Large Green Bird) vase, white earthenware,... Picasso at Madoura: A Ceramic Bird Captured in Mid-Flight

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Gros oiseau vert (Large Green Bird) vase, white earthenware, engobe decoration, engraved with a knife, hand painted, 25 copies, Madoura and Édition Picasso stamps, “exemplaire éditeur” hand inscribed inside the neck, h. 57 cm/22.44 in, w. 44 cm/17.32 in.

Estimate: €130,000/160,000

Birds—owls, eagle-owls, doves of peace and golden eagles—are the zoomorphic hybrid creations that show up most often in Pablo Picasso’s paintings and sculptures. In the late 1940s, under the kind eye of his owl Ubul, the artist modeled simplified forms for utilitarian ceramics at the Madoura Studio in Vallauris; It was in this small village in the commune of Golfe-Juan where he met the owners, Georges and Suzanne Ramié, in the summer of 1946. Artistically speaking, it was love at first sight. After a successful test run that year, in 1948 Picasso moved to Vallauris, where, under contract with the Ramiés, he produced vases, plates, jugs and other everyday items to make his art more accessible. The unprecedented artistic freedom offered by the new medium spurred him to renew his iconographic repertoire. He created original, simplified forms that look as though they were folded like an origami sculpture. The artist designed the ovoid bird vase with two wing-shaped handles in 1951. Different versions in several series followed, including this green one in 1960, a model produced in 25 pieces. Ours, which is in perfect condition, has the handwritten inscription “exemplaire éditeur” and the Madoura and Éditions Picasso stamp on the neck. Specially designed for the Ramiés, it was made and painted by Picasso himself. This “large bird” in flight, probably an owl, dates from his last years in Vallauris, just before he moved to Mougins.

Mediterranean Influences
The Ramiés belonged to a new wave of ceramists who set out to revitalize local craftsmanship. Picasso’s imagination soon ran away with him; he created useful things that doubled as full-fledged artworks and collector’s items. Vallauris put him in contact with centuries of craftsmanship. His ceramics, especially the vases, borrowed from the aesthetics of ancient works: like Etruscan amphorae salvaged from a shipwreck, they seem to have been found at the bottom of the sea. The iconography, rooted in the Mediterranean and Hispano-Moorish world of Picasso’s childhood, spans a wide range of themes, from birds to still lifes and fish as well as his goat Esmeralda and his wife Jacqueline, whom he met during the war and married in Vallauris.

He was a happy, fully committed artist who worked at the Madoura Studio. “He kept an eye on the turner, whom he loved to interrupt to 'wring the neck' of the pots and give them a zoomorphic shape,” said the Antibes ceramist Dominique Sassi of the Madoura Studio during the 2013-2014 exhibition “Picasso céramiste et la Méditerranée” (“Picasso the ceramist and the Mediterranean”) in Sèvres. He made over 3,600 pieces in the studio, some unique, others in limited editions of 25 to 500 copies. By revolutionizing its codes in Vallauris, Picasso became “one of the first to inscribe ceramics in the artistic language of the second half of the 20th century,” said Éric Moinet, head of the heritage and collections department at the Cité de la céramique in Sèvres.

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