Attenborough Donates Picasso Ceramics Collection To Leicester New Walk Museum

By Caroline Lewis | 07 June 2007
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Round plate with four interlaced face profiles and radiating stripes painted on it

Four Enlaced Profiles, round/square plate, 1949. Empreinte originale: white earthenware, decorated with slips, glazed. © Picasso estate

Please note this temporary exhibition is now closed.

Exhibition preview - The Attenborough Collection of Picasso Ceramics at the New Walk Museum, Leicester until October 30 2007.

Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery presents 100 works from Lord Richard Attenborough’s collection of ceramics by Picasso, in their first ever public display together.

Lord Attenborough announced in May 2007 that he is donating the entire collection of about 160 pieces to Leicester, his home city, and a permanent gallery for The Attenborough Collection is now being developed at New Walk. Until September 30 2007 an exhibition will showcase a selection of works from the generous gift.

“My family and I have experienced untold joy assembling our ceramic collection over the last 50 years,” said actor and director Lord Attenborough. “We are so happy to be able to share our delight with those visiting the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery.”

Vase shaped piece of pottery with a bull painted on it

Toro Bravo, round-bellied pitcher, March 29 1955. White earthenware, decorated with slips, incised. © Picasso estate

Plans had been made to stage the exhibition in 2005, but the Attenboroughs were struck by a family disaster when their daughter, Jane, and granddaughter, Lucy, were both lost in the Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004. Lord Attenborough has dedicated the exhibition to them.

Picasso’s ceramic works centred around the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris, France, a small town between Cannes and Antibes known for its arts and crafts. The Spanish artist worked mainly with plates, jugs and tiles, but also experimented with aspects of painting and sculpture in the medium.

The exhibition, curated by Dr McCully with support from staff at New Walk, looks at Picasso’s developing relationship with ceramics from 1947 until his death in 1973. Many of the motifs and themes on the various pieces are in the artist’s familiar style, incorporating faces and abstract variations on different forms.

Bowl with painting of a hand on top of a fish

Hands with Fish, round bowl, 1953. Empreinte originale: red earthenware, decorated with slips, incised. © Picasso estate

“Ceramics was the medium in which Picasso showed his powers of artistic transformation in the most inventive way,” says Dr Marilyn McCully, Picasso expert and curator of the exhibition.

“Working on the Mediterranean coast in the last 20 years of his life, he drew his inspiration from mythology, popular traditions and his own creativity which had revolutionised modern art.”

Lord and Lady Attenborough built up their collection on frequent visits to Madoura over the last 50 years. The first thing they acquired was an ashtray, for £3, in 1954.

“It is wonderful that an idea Richard first shared with me eight years ago, at the 150th anniversary of New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, has become a reality,” said Cllr Ross Willmott, leader of Leicester City Council. “We are extremely grateful to Lord and Lady Attenborough for giving us the opportunity to exhibit their treasured collection in public for the first time.”

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