In 1948, Picasso came to live in Vallauris where he stayed until 1955. During his time there, he created a great many sculptures and paintings including War and Peace, which was one of the major artworks of the period. He also developed a fascination with the two techniques of ceramics and lino-cuts.
It was in 1946, on a visit to the annual exhibition by the potters of Vallauris, that by chance he met Suzanne and George Ramié, who owned a ceramics factory – the Madoura workshop – where Picasso, who was keen to try something new, made his first foray into ceramics and then decided to throw himself into the activity, which offered him new creative horizons: the malleability of the clay, the magic of the firing process which created exploding columns of enamel and the
brilliance of the glazes drawing him to the craft.
His approach was somewhat unorthodox. Picasso, as a sculptor, fashioned fauna and nymphs in the glaze, melted the clay like one melts bronze, and tirelessly decorated plates and dishes with his favourite subjects (bullfights, women, owls, goats, etc.) He also used the unlikeliest of bases (fragments of casserole dishes, kiln bits and broken bricks), invented white paste, (ceramic that has not been glazed and decorated with pieces in relief). Picasso never considered ceramics as a lessor art form.
Over a period of twenty years he produced about four thousand original pieces. According to his wishes, several copies were produced of some of his pieces and Madoura had the exclusive rights to their production. Having said this, Picasso wanted these copies to be used on a daily basis as he once remarked to André Malraux “I have made some plates we can eat off”.
Another technique that particularly fascinated him was the linocut, something he practised with the printer Hidalgo Arnera. His first works were used to make posters to advertise the bull fights and ceramic exhibitions in the town. He quickly turned it into a form of expression by placing emphasis on colour.
Picasso and Vallauris Today
As freeman of the town, Picasso greatly contributed to the renaissance of the Vallauris pottery industry in the 1950s, this mythical golden age and time when everyone was a potter. Many inhabitants still evoke his presence and that of his contemporaries (Françoise Gilot and her children Claude and Paloma, then Jacqueline Roque, his last partner whom he married amid the greatest secrecy at Vallauris town hall in 1961), the bullfights, exhibitions and visits by all kinds of famous people.
National Picasso Museum War & Peace
Between April and September 1952, Picasso started to produce paintings for the lay Chapel of Peace in Vallauris. He made a large series of preparatory drawings that clearly illustrate his enormous creative capacity, and the intensity with which he worked on these two themes is irrefutable proof of his concern with the end of violence and the consolidation of world peace.
In his studio in Rue des Grands Agustins, Vallauris, Picasso shut himself away in order to devote himself entirely to creating these paintings, and he didn’t let anyone except his son, Paulo, who helped him move the panels, to look at his work. This happened during the period of time that Hélène Parmelin calls “the summer of War and Peace”.
He started his composition with War, which has a frenetic series of destructive scenes that stop dead before a peaceful, firm character, brandishing a shield on which a dove is inscribed. Peace, on the other hand, once again takes up the pace of the pagan scenes in Antibes and also recovers some of the characters from Picasso’s earlier works, such as Pegasus, who appears on the backdrop for Parade.
However, the joviality that emanates from these manifestations of peace is not as intense as that of Joy of living: in the scene to the left of the Peace mural there is a group of people who, due to their more serious, thoughtful appearance, offset the merriment of the rest.
The two compositions are of monumental proportions (over 100m²) and were painted on hardboard panels that mirrored the curvature of the vaulting. After Guernica in 1937 and Slaughter in Korea in 1951, War and Peace was for Picasso the final manifestation of his commitment to peace, something that was particularly apparent during the congresses organised by the Communist Party for which he designed the Dove, which went on to be reproduced around the world.
The work was produced specially for the disused Chapel, where his “Man with a Sheep” sculpture already stood (this is now on the Place de l’Eglise, in front of the museum). There was undoubtedly a touch of malice in Picasso’s wish to place the sculpture here: his artist neighbours in the region – Chagall and Matisse – both decorated chapels in Vence.
The first of the two painted panels, “War”, on the left as you enter, is an allegorical composition. Originally, in the preparatory drawings, it was symbolised by a hearse. There now remains a tank across which a figure moves, bearing a bloody sword in one hand and in the other, a basket from which bacteria from the germ warfare – that was greatly feared even then – are escaping. A sack of skulls is slung over his shoulder. Silhouettes of men come up against a Peace fighter, whose shield is decorated with a dove. Behind the dove on the shield appears a transparency of the face of Françoise Gilot – who was living with Picasso at the time – like a subliminal image. The link between a female face and a dove is nothing new: it already appeared in the drawings Picasso did in 1950 for the thirtieth anniversary of the French Communist Party.
“Peace” is read from right to left, starting with the three figures underneath a tree. The comparison of the two panels reveals many antithetical elements, both in the colours (black horse/white horse; black and grey background/green and blue background) and in the themes (horse trampling books/horse ploughing the fields; trampled books/a man writing). In her memoirs, Françoise Gilot then helped him by suggesting, “In peace time, everything is possible; a child could plough the sea”. And so we see a child ploughing the sea, drawn by a winged horse.
War and Peace is the last major political composition produced by Picasso. It was completed in 1952 and permanently installed in the Chapel in 1954, then donated by the artist in 1956 to the French State, which established the Chapel as a national museum.
Man with a Sheep
This bronze statue, created in 1943, was donated to the town in 1949. The sculpture, of which two other copies were made (one in Philadelphia in the USA and the other in the Picasso Museum in Paris), is one of the rare statues the artist created for a public place. Picasso wanted children to be able to climb all over this work, a wish that is fully realised today.
Born on 11 December in Cherbourg, Jean Alfred Villain Marais, man of many talents came to live in Vallauris in 1980. A dauntless stuntman in cloak and dagger films, a man of the theatre, a painter and sculptor, his artistic leanings led him to dabble in the art of pottery. It was in 1973 that Jean Marais, who then lived in Cabris (a village in the surrounding area of Grasse), came to Vallauris and bought 200kg of clay from Union-KPCL (a clay conditioning factory) much to the amazement of the merchant that sold it to him.
With the help of books alone, his beginnings were unsuccessful and he was advised to take a course in using the potter’s wheel. Jo Pasquali was introduced to him. After spending hours in front of and behind the potter’s wheel, with the help of his technician friend, Jean Maris discovered new techniques.
His courage and daring soon led him to have his own workshop and in 1975 he opened a gallery in Vallauris with the help of Jo and his wife Nini, who became his closest friends. Next to his gallery stands the statue known as La Rebellissière.