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Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors

posted on 19/05/17

The Gagosian unveiled a novel curation of work by Pablo Picasso on 28 April, entitled Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors. Miles Rowland takes a look at a lifelong obsession with bulls that pervaded much of Picasso’s oeuvre and is explored in this exhibition, curated by the artist's close friend Sir John Richardson.

It might be surprising to some that one of history’s most avant-garde modernists worshipped the cult of the bullfight, now so widely perceived as cruel both outside and increasingly within Spain. In this case, however, Picasso was tied by the macho traditions of his Spanish heritage and had been taken to the Málaga bullring from an early age. Bullfighting soon became his favourite spectator sport and even in his latter years in Provence the artist would regularly frequent the bullrings of Arles, Nîmes and Vallauris. To Picasso, it seems that beyond the spectacle, the role of the bull embodied human brutality, as well as our own mortality.

Another recurrent image of Picasso’s work is the minotaur; the half-man half-bull monster from Greek mythology which blurs the line between man and beast, hunter and quarry. The minotaur appealed to Picasso’s Surrealist tendencies which often resulted in dreamlike (or nightmarish) works such as La Minotauromachie VII, a 1934 etching displayed in this exhibition, depicting the eponymous monster terrorizing a narrow alleyway of people. The artist identified in some way with this mythic creature, once saying ‘If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur.’ – indeed – the curation even includes an unsettling photo of Picasso wearing a bull’s head intended for bullfighter training.

The exhibition runs from 28 April to 25 August 2017 at the Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill.


By Miles Rowland, Digital Marketing Assistant.


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