Fish on dark background
Cannes, 16 May 1957
Plat espagnol, Ø 42.5cm
MPB 112.449
Jacqueline Picasso donation, June 1982


This exhibition celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of Jacqueline Picasso's donation of 41 unique ceramics to the city of Barcelona. These plates, jugs and bowls were among gifts Picasso had made to her over the course of the two decades that they shared their lives.

An introductory section presents ceramic portraits of Jacqueline and a superb oil painting of her that Picasso dedicated and gave to his wife. In addition, photographs document their relationship through ceramics and the first display of the donation in Barcelona in 1982. The works in the donation are grouped together in four cases, following a general chronology, according to different forms and techniques. The imagery that Picasso chose for their decoration ranges from nudes, Arcadian scenes and bullfights to creatures of the worlds of nature and myth. The shapes themselves provided the artist with inspiration: oblong plates, for example, could readily be transformed into settings for fish and birds or into heads of fauns.

Reflections of ancient art are ever-present in Picasso's reinterpretation of Greek vase painting. Round plates provided an analogy to the bullring, and the artist often filled these with his own inventive bullfight scenes. The most famous work in the donation is his large Fish on dark ground, a 'plat espagnol' decorated with an unusual combination of materials, including ceramic pastels, which was exhibited twice during the artist's lifetime.

This exhibition is accompanied by an extensive selection of graphic work from the collection of the museum with Jacqueline Picasso as the central motif.

Guest curators: Marilyn McCully and Michael Raeburn