Pablo Picasso (1881- 1973) was the most dominant and influential artist of the first half of the twentieth century. Associated most of all with pioneering Cubism, alongside Georges Braque, he also invented collage and made major contributions to Symbolism and Surrealism. He saw himself above all as a painter, yet his sculpture was greatly influential, and he also explored areas as diverse as printmaking and ceramics.
In 1946, while visiting the annual pottery exhibition in Vallauris, Pablo Picasso had the good fortune to meet Suzanne and Georges Ramie. The Ramies owned the Madoura workshop, a ceramics studio in Vallauris, where Picasso, who was eager to delve into a new medium, made his first venture into ceramics. He became so enthralled with ceramics that he decided to move to Vallauris to pursue his new passion.
Picasso lived in the small, scenic town of Vallauris from 1948 to 1955. He bought and transformed Les Fournas, a former perfumery in Vallauris, into his studio, where he worked prolifically. Located in the south of France, Vallauris was renowned for its pottery. During his time in Vallauris, Picasso worked extensively, creating many ceramics, sculptures, linocuts, and paintings, including his masterpiece “War & Peace”, a diptyque that was installed in the chapel of the Château de Vallauris in 1959. It was also in Vallauris where Picasso first developed a fascination with two mediums: ceramics and linocuts.
Picasso went on to create thousands of ceramics in the Madoura ceramic studio. Incollaboration with Suzanne and Georges Ramie and the skilled ceramicists at the Madoura studio, Picasso shaped plates, dishes, vases, jugs, and other earthenware utensils and then painted and decorated them with enamel and metal oxides. Picasso was particularly fascinated by the use of metal oxides, as their very nature meant that he never quite knew how the end product would look.
Just as Picasso collaborated with master printers to create editions of his printed works, Picasso collaborated with Suzanne and Georges Ramie to create set editions of his ceramic works. Today, these Picasso ceramics are amongst the most valuable and desirable works of Picasso’s entire artistic oeuvre. The diversity of form and range of subject matters found within Picasso ceramics lend them a rareness and unique charm that contributes to their increased demand in the art market.
Picasso was an iconic and important figure in Vallauris’ history. He became a freeman of Vallauris and greatly contributed to the renaissance of the Vallauris pottery industry in the 1950s. Picasso also demonstrated his commitment to civic duty by creating linocut posters for Vallauris’ annual ceramic fairs and bullfights.
Following Picasso’s departure from Vallauris in 1955, Vallauris remained an important part of Picasso’s life. He retained fond memories of his time spent living in Vallauris, where his lover Francois Gilot and their children Claude and Paloma Picasso often accompanied him. Picasso would return to Vallauris at later points in his life to revisit the bullfights, exhibitions, and old friends and acquaintances. In fact, Vallauris was so dear to Picasso that he married his second wife Jacqueline Roque in great secrecy at the Vallauris town hall in 1961.
Picasso’s presence in Vallauris shaped the town’s history. Following his move there, other artists, such as Victor Brauner and Marc Chagall, rushed to work in the ceramic studios in Vallauris. Today, the Musee National Picasso in Vallauris pays homage to the artistic inspiration and personal happiness that Picasso found in Vallauris.