Phil Grabsky (director)
05 February 2019 (released)
01 February 2019
Young Picasso is the latest offering from the team at Exhibition On Screen, who specialise in bringing in-depth documentaries about exhibition-based artworks into cinemas.
With so little known about Picasso’s early years, the film ably re-addresses this balance, revealing childhood influences and formative experiences, of one of the world’s most celebrated artists.
Working in close collaboration with the five major Picasso museums in Málaga, Barcelona and Paris, Director Phil Grabsky focuses on the first twenty-five years of Pablo Picasso’s life.
Unfolding chronologically, the film gradually builds towards the creation of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). The oil painting is considered culturally significant as it marks for many Picasso’s transition from classical painter to pioneer of a modernist art form.
Picasso was only twenty-five years old when he painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and at the time it attracted much controversy and criticism for its departure from artistic norms. Some commentators claim the artist resisted public exhibition for several years, in response to negative reactions to the piece at the time.
There is much to relish within this documentary format, a painting by the seven-year-old Pablo for example, evokes a precocious talent. His father, José Ruiz y Blasco, also looms large as a key figure. Blasco, a painter and art teacher himself, taught his son how to draw and Grabsky gives due consideration to the significant role he played in supporting his son to succeed as an artist.
Experts from the participating museums as well as his grandson, Olivier Widmaier Picasso, do a fine job at explaining Picasso’s earlier compositions and his creative development. Interwoven are additional voices from historians and critics, and voiced-up letters from friends and lovers, all of which add an enriching layer of testimony from the past.
From a visual perspective the sequences linking the contributors and the art, using loose wide shots and slow tracking moves around gallery spaces, lacks an overall aesthetic.
The cinematography comes alive when it jumps into the canvasses themselves. Grabsky’s decision to linger a while, showing the texture, colour and brushstrokes, works extremely well as a tutorial on great art.
Scholarly in content and delivery, Young Picasso is an illuminating documentary for the art-curious and a legacy film for Picasso enthusiasts.