Upon the passing of Pablo Picasso in 1973, the globe lamented the loss of a luminary – an innovative creative force who consistently upended 20th-century art. However, subsequent revelations about his harshness, philandering, manipulative conduct, and appropriation of cultures have prompted us to reevaluate our veneration of this eminent master.
Now, a half-century after his demise, a fresh three-part series unveils the unembellished life and contributions of an individual who was as much a prodigious talent as a monstrous figure. The series delves into his legacy: encompassing not only the remarkable artworks he bequeathed but also the instances of suicide and betrayal that interweaved with it.
Picasso navigated through two world wars, chronicling a century marked by warfare, desolation, serenity, and aspiration. He metamorphosed through phases of Blue to Rose, Cubism, neo-Classicism, and the avant-garde. Among his oeuvre stand numerous paramount creations of the 20th century: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Weeping Woman, and Guernica.
In a career spanning eight decades, he crafted approximately 150,000 works – a volume substantial enough to fill an aircraft hangar. His art often exhibited a stark brutality, depicting both violence and desire, yet he also adeptly captured beauty and innocence unlike any other. His personal life, similarly, teemed with paradoxes.
Suzy Klein, Head of Arts and Classical Music TV, says: “Picasso was a secretive genius – a man who didn’t talk about his inner life but instead poured it out onto the canvas – changing his artistic styles as often as he changed wives and girlfriends. When he died, he was lionised, but it’s only now, 50 years after his death, that we have the critical distance to unpick those deep connections between Picasso’s life and his art, and to give an unflinching look at the horror and brilliance of what he left behind.”
Sophie Leonard, Executive Producer Minnow Films, says: “It was an extraordinary honour to take such a deep dive into the life and work one of the most mind-blowing creative talents of all time. Picasso’s work thrills, confuses, and astounds the audience, as much as his personal life did. We can’t and won’t shy away from the problematic elements of Picasso, but what cannot be questioned is the unrivalled influence that the man and his work have had on us.”
Picasso: The Beauty and The Beast provides a glimpse into the world of his paintings, the places he frequented, and the people he was surrounded by. This revealing documentary features exclusive accounts from his daughter Paloma and grandchildren Diana, Bernard, and Olivier. Alongside these personal testimonies are interviews with his close friends and recordings from his numerous romantic relationships.
The three-part series showcases a collection of rare personal archives and takes viewers behind the scenes of the museums dedicated to his legacy. It also includes insights from esteemed art historians and curators who have devoted their lives to understanding Picasso’s work. Notable figures in this regard are Frances Morris, the former Director of Tate Modern; Anne Umland, Senior Curator at MoMA; Jean Louis Andral, Director of the Picasso Museum Antibes; Michael Cary, Curator at Gagosian galleries; and British art critic Louisa Buck.
Prominent artists Jeff Koons, Julian Schnabel, and Jenny Saville contribute their perspectives, along with authors Siri Hustvedt and Colm Toibín, psychotherapist and author Phillipa Perry, and V&A East Director Gus Caley-Hayford.
Produced and directed by John O’Rourke, with Alice Perman as the Series Director, Picasso: The Beauty and The Beast is a Minnow Films production. The series is brought to life by Executive Producers Sophie Leonard, Alicia Kerr, and Greg Sanderson. This compelling documentary series was commissioned for broadcast on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer, under the supervision of Mark Bell.
To complement this series, BBC Four will air a selection of classic BBC art documentaries from their archive. These documentaries celebrate other groundbreaking artists of the 20th century, including titles such as Art On The BBC: The Great Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol’s America, Maggi Hambling: Making Love With The Paint, David Hockney: The Art Of Seeing, Becoming Matisse, Georgia O’Keefe: By Myself, Keith Haring: Street Art Boy, and Leonora Carrington: The Lost Surrealist.