Picasso and Abstraction

Encounters and Avoidance

Pablo Picasso did not speak often about abstraction, but when he did, it was either to dismiss it as complacent decoration or to declare its very notion an oxymoron. The root of this hostility is to be found in the impasse that the artist reached in the summer 1910, when abstraction suddenly appeared as the logical development of his previous work, a possibility at which he recoiled in horror. But though he swore to never go again near abstraction, he could not prevent himself from testing his resolve from time to time.

In this lecture, Yve-Alain Bois, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, examines several encounters, or rather false encounters, of Picasso with abstraction. Bois also discusses the way in which pioneers of abstract art (Mondrian in particular) thought of their own art as the continuation of Picasso’s.