Charleston

Pots et Citron (Copy of Pablo Picasso)

In 1911, the art critic Clive Bell became one of the first people in Britain to own a work by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

In 1911, the art critic Clive Bell became one of the first people in Britain to own a work by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. On a trip to Paris, he bought the painting ‘Pots et Citron’ from renowned French art historian and collector Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.

A bold, abstract work, Picasso’s ‘Pots et Citron’ was unlike anything being painted by artists in Britain at that time. As an art critic, Bell was fascinated by this style of abstract art, and was keen to bring it back to Britain. A few years later, in 1914, he published his most well-known book ‘Art’. In it, his theory of significant form laid out why he believed the elements of an artwork – colours, shapes and forms – were more important than subject matter.

‘I came to the conclusion that he is probably one of the greatest geniuses that has ever lived.’

– Vanessa Bell on Pablo Picasso, in a letter, 1914

The artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and Clive Bell were all frequent visitors to Picasso’s studio and they spent time with him on many occasions throughout the 1920s and 30s. On a visit in 1937, Picasso showed them the nearly completed ‘Guernica’ – possibly his most famous painting, and widely regarded as the most moving and powerful anti-war painting in history.

So when Bell moved to Charleston on a permanent basis in 1939, he brought his treasured Picasso along with him. It hung proudly on the wall in the garden room. The work hanging there now, in it’s place, is this copy painted by Clive and Vanessa Bell’s son, Quentin Bell. He created this copy around 1957 when Clive Bell was forced to sell the original. The artists regularly made copies of old masters throughout their careers and hung many of those copies at Charleston.

The original Picasso is now in the collection of the Albertina Museum, Vienna.