Lot Essay ‘With ceramics the artist can demonstrate his creativity and the strength of his invention like in a painting, while additionally saving the spontaneous result born physically, materially from his hands' (Picasso quoted in F. Mathey, ‘La céramique des peintres’, Métiers d'art, October 1981, p. 110).
The present work bears the signs of Picasso’s intrepid creativity, when after the Second World War he turned to ceramics, transferring the whimsical world of his pictures and sculptures onto the shapes and vessels of Provençal pottery. Picasso had first visited the Madoura Pottery studio in Vallauris in 1946, invited by Georges and Suzanne Ramié. The pottery-making history of Vallauris went back to the Roman times, when the area was an important centre of amphorae production; in the 18th century, Vallauris revived its ancient fame with the production of kitchen earthenware.
This impressive vessel simultaneously fuses the classical with the modern: in Gros oiseau corrida (A.R. 191), Picasso has manipulated the form of the classical hydria, capitalizing on its ability to resemble a bird. Shifting the relation of forms, and decreasing the bird’s characteristics to a minimum, Picasso exhibits his talent in capturing character with only a few distilled lines: using the swell of the body of the vase to depict the bird’s breast and the curve of the handles to portray the spread of wings. He highlights the wings and neck of the bird with rich terracotta pigment and black engobe which can be seen to be indicative of feathers. Here, Picasso succeeds in conveying not only his unbounding imagination but also emphasizes the technical accomplishment of creating such a complex and monumental ceramic piece.