The Art Gallery of Ontario’s “Picasso: Painting the Blue Period”

Robert K. Stephen and Fotini Stephen: Toronto: December 7, 2021: Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario has mounted an exhibit entitled “Picasso: Painting the Blue Period” which will continue until January 16, 2022. There are over 100 artworks on display covering Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904). Picasso was a very young man in his late teens and early twenties during the Blue Period painting both in Barcelona and Paris. Why the Blue? Quite simple he favoured the colour blue during this period.

Pablo Picasso. La Soupe, 1903. Oil on canvas, Overall: 38.5 x 46 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Margaret Dunlap Crang, 1983. © Picasso Estate / SOCAN (2021) 83/316

In this Blue Period you’ll see Picasso’s work reflect social and political events and that he borrowed or was influenced by other artists such as El Greco, Edgar Degas and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. So it is not simply nature or flowers in a bowl depicted but rather poverty, social unrest gender inequality and war. You may be more familiar with Picasso’s cubes, triangles and odd geometric patterns of his later works, But the Blue Period reflects a less abstract approach by Picasso. I have seen many of his works in Barcelona, Paris and in the United States but at the AGO we are presented with a wealth of paintings you might only see at the Musée national Picasso-Paris. Put bluntly grab this exhibit now as you might never see such a powerful and focussed collection assembled in Canada again.

Pablo Picasso. La Miséreuse accroupie, 1902. Oil on canvas, Overall: 101.3 x 66 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 1963. © Picasso Estate / SOCAN (2021) 63/1

The exhibition is the first exhibition in Canada to focus on Picasso’s early years

Picasso is seen during the Blue Period as a “painter of modern life” with his representations of street scenes, café-concerts and sex workers. Perhaps one of the most striking pictures is “Crouching Beggarwoman” painted in 1902 Barcelona which reflects his social activism as an artist. Here was an artist that painted disease ravaged prostitutes, beggars and the poor and oppressed.

There are also a few paintings from Picasso’s Rose Period (1905-1906) where he was in a small village Gósol in the Spanish countryside and was moved to painting with warm terracotta hues. There are also two Spanish master paintings by El Greco whom many claim had an influence on Picasso.

This is a rich exhibit and almost too overwhelming to take in on one visit. We think it is necessary for it to settle in and go for another viewing in a couple of weeks

Pablo Picasso. The Blue Room, 1901. Oil on canvas, 50.5 x 61.6 cm. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. Acquired 1927 © Picasso Estate / SOCAN (2021)

In addition to the exhibit there are also talks, courses and events.

The exhibition is important for aficionados of Picasso wanting to focus on the early works of an artist that would emerge as one of the world’s most renowned painters.

The AGO is one of the largest art museums in North America attracting close to one million visitors annually and its collection of more than 120,000 works of art.

For further information visit  

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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