Picasso plucked his ruffs from El Greco. But not only that: In the work of the 16th-century master, he also found the emaciated figures that would be characteristic of his Blue Period, the layout of some of his Cubist paintings and a constant source of inspiration for the musketeers that appear in his late work. As for one of his most famous early paintings, Evocation: The Burial of Casagemas (1901), it derives naturally from El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, painted in 1586.
At least, this is what Carmen Giménez and Josef Helfenstein, the curators of the “Picasso-El Greco” exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland, intend to demonstrate by comparing 74 selected works by the two painters. The Burial of the Count of Orgaz could not leave its home at the Santo Tomé church in Toledo, Spain, but it is replaced by two versions of The Adoration of the Name of Jesus, painted around 1577, but the comparison is equally convincing.
As for the ruffs, this exhibition is also illuminating: those that encircle the neck of Picasso’s musketeers, as well as the portrait of his secretary Jaime Sabartes from 1939, derive directly from Spanish clothing fashion at the end of the 16th century. Such garish collars were undoubtedly uncomfortable. But El Greco and Picasso both paint them joyfully, with lyrical brushwork stirring white spirals, interlacing and lineaments that form a stark contrast with the black dress of the Golden Age of Philip II.
ablo Ruiz Picasso[a][b] (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and theatre designer who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and the anti-war painting Guernica (1937), a dramatic portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian air forces during the Spanish Civil War.