A Picasso bestiary

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Academy Editions, Feb 28, 1995 - Architecture - 208 pages
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Pablo Picasso was fascinated by animals and from his earliest years they played an important role in both his life and his work. Many of his most intriguing and stimulating creations represent beasts in all manner of guises, both serious and playful. A Picasso Bestiary is published to coincide with an exhibition held at Croydon in 1995, and like the show, it gathers together a thought-provoking selection of Picasso's animal works, grouped by subject: The Bull, The Horse and the Donkey, Birds, Cats and Dogs, Goats and Sheep, Watery Creatures, Insects, Monkeys and Monsters. This format was suggested by the structure of the mediaeval bestiary: a luxurious 'Book of Beasts' which described the wonders of the animal kingdom and explained their moral and spiritual significance. The stories the bestiary tells are based on fact and fancy, hearsay and precedence, and a comparable method has been adopted in this book: the weaving of tales around Picasso's animals and relating them to earlier themes and models in Western European art. Like many artists before him, Picasso recognised the way in which the visual representation of animals could invoke a whole range of reflections about life and death, food and sex and, importantly, his own creativity. This book therefore comprises two narratives, the one dealing with a tradition of animal representation, the other with Picasso. Their juxtaposition, together with a wealth of visual material, allows exciting patterns to emerge which demonstrate both how consistently certain long-established themes continue into Picasso's art, and how wilfully others are abandoned in favour of his own personal vision.

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The Bull
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About the author (1995)

Neil Cox is Lecturer in Art History and Theory at the University of Essex.

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