If you visit this exhibition thinking it will provide insights into the life and work of Picasso, then you are very likely to be disappointed. However if you go anticipating a celebration of the work of some the greatest British artists of the twentieth century and how they were influenced by Picasso, then you are in for a treat.
The Picasso: Peace and Freedom exhibition at Tate Liverpool in 2010, with limited resources, focused on some rarely explored aspects of Picasso's work, and was a great success. In total contrast the presentation of Picasso in this exhibition at Tate Britain lacks coherence. Indeed there is a whole gallery (Picasso in Britain 1920-39) where the connection with the theme of Picasso and British Art is so tenuous that it is laughable. Works are included simply because they were painted by Picasso between 1920 and 1939 and are now in British ownership: 'the first work to be owned by a British gallery', 'the first work to be owned by a British gallery outside London', 'in a Scottish collection' and so on. Having managed to secure the loan of such a diverse range of works, the Tate have really missed an opportunity to present Picasso in an innovative way.
However, the exhibition really comes into its own when it juxtaposes works of some of the great British artists with those of Picasso. The galleries on Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and Hockney all work very well. Whilst it is difficult to demonstrate a direct influence of Picasso on more than a few of the works of these artists, his wider impact becomes clear, particularly on Moore and Hockney.
Picasso and Modern British Art is at Tate Britain until 15th July.