Half a century after his death, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) continues to fascinate the public and sell art at millionaire pricesdespite the controversies surrounding his relationship with women.
Picasso died on April 8, 1973 in Mougins, on the French Riviera, at the age of 91.
At his death, the first catalog of works, completed in 1978, contained no less than 33 volumes and more than 16,000 images. But the real number of works, from paintings to sculpture, through engravings or ceramics, could be much higher.
As part of the repertoire of tributes paid to the memory of the artist, the National Museum of Fine Arts inaugurated at the end of March in its room 33 the exhibition “Picasso in the Museum’s heritage”, made up of more than 30 works -including engravings, oil paintings and ceramics – from the precursor of cubism.
Meanwhile, museums around the world, and particularly in France and Spain, have scheduled some 50 exhibitions on the artist.
Picasso portrayed Gertrude Stein and vice versa
In 1938, the writer and collector Gertrude Stein published a short story entitled ‘Picasso’, in which she lucidly detailed the rich evolution of her work from its beginnings to the year of publication.
The volume also recovers some anecdotes that provide a valuable testimony about the life of the painter born in Malaga, since Stein and Picasso They wove a solid friendship that lasted until the narrator’s death in 1946.
In 1905 the artist portrayed his sidekick and this is how the author remembered him:
“It was in 1905 when he painted my portrait (…) I posed for him that winter about eight times and in the end he erased my face: He told me that he could no longer look at me; and she went once more to Spain“.
“Just after returning from Spain he painted my face without seeing me and gave me the painting. I was very happy and I still am with my portrait; to me, it’s me,” Stein observed.
Picasso, absolute and disturbing
Picasso He is recognized as one of the founders of the cubism with Georges Braque. Stein places the origin of this new language in approximately 1908.
“Pictures within a frame had always existed but now the paintings wanted to free themselves from the frames and this also gave rise to the need for cubism”, described the writer and art collector in the mentioned work.
In Stein’s view, Picasso faced the daunting challenge of free yourself from all preconceptions about the human form to capture its true nature.
According to the narrator, “everyone tends to complete the whole using their previous knowledge, but for Picassowhen he saw one eye, the other eye did not exist for him, only the one he saw existed“.
“And as a painter,” Stein reflected, “he was right: one sees what one sees, the rest is reconstructed by memory, and painters have nothing to do with reconstruction, with memory: they deal only with the visible. , hence the Picasso’s Cubism be an effort to capture the visible and that the result is bewildering for him and for everyone.”
In this sense, the gaze that Picasso inaugurated had the peculiarity of “jumping” from the dimension of “known things” to “things as they manifest themselves.”
That subtlety, according to Stein, drew the dividing line that separated his friend from other contemporary artists. The painter born in 1881 was able to glimpse a “reality that was felt more than seen, that was opposed to it more than being based on nature”, depicted one of the women portrayed by Picasso.
In view of the foregoing, Picasso’s paintings entail a dynamism which necessarily defies the conventional gaze that scans any sequence of objects effortlessly, “on autopilot”.
The head, the eyes, the face, the human body (recurring expressions in Picasso’s narrative) break the surface, emerge and “fight” to take possession of the shots.
“When looking at a friend, one only sees some features of his face. In fact, Picasso was not immediate, he analyzed his vision: I did not want to paint what I had not seen. The other painters are satisfied with appearances, always with appearances, which is not what they see but what they know is there,” explained the painter’s friend.
As if the above were not enough, Stein took note of a personal experience that allows us to delve a little deeper into the specificity of Picasso’s art.
The writer was amazed when observing the landscapes from the heights: “When I was in the United States, I traveled a lot by plane and when I looked at the earth I saw all the lines that cubism made when no painter had yet gotten on a plane; I saw on the earth the crossed lines of Picasso, coming and going, developing and destroying…”.
The treatment of ‘the ugly’ in Picasso’s production
Picasso recognized, in light of the testimony of his friend Stein, that the creative process requires the creator to “stain” himself with apparently abject elements.
For the sake of obeying the intensity of the creative impulse, it would seem inevitable that the ugly, dirty or crude takes shape. Will these eruptions be the ones that define the creative experience as such?
Gertrude Stein probably answered in the affirmative. “Picasso once said that whoever creates a thing is bound to make it ugly. In the effort to create something intense, in the struggle to create that intensity, the result is always something of ugliness.”
“Those who come after,” the author underlined, “will be able to get something beautiful out of that ugliness, because they will already know what they are doing, having before them the thing already invented; but the inventor, not knowing what he is going to invent, inevitably , what I end up creating will have some ugliness in it.”
Picasso at the National Museum of Fine Arts
As described on the official website of the Museum, the works of the exhibition “Picasso in the Museum’s heritage” are distributed in 5 thematic cores that cover different stages of Picasso’s fertile production, from 1905 to 1959:
“First time. From figuration to cubism” It includes the first drypoint and etching engravings, techniques that the painter explored at the beginning of the 20th century to represent harlequins and circus characters.
This first segment of the exhibition includes the “Series of Saltimbanquis” ‒of which “El baño” is exhibited‒, and the watercolor “Mujer desnuda de espalda”, which could be inspired by Fernande Olivier, the artist’s first couple. plastic.
Between 1908 and 1909, Picasso captured the language of cubism in engravings, which gave rise to works such as “Two Nude Figures: Woman with a Guitar and Child with a Cup” and “Still Life with a Fruit Bowl”.
The second thematic axis, “In the studio. The artist and his model ”, brings together creations where the artist himself and the women of his intimate environment are represented, such as that young lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, who posed for paintings and engravings throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
The influence of classical art was clearly manifested in the series of engravings on “The sculptor’s workshop”, made between 1933 and 1934, since “the sculptor (perhaps Picasso himself) appears personified as a god of ancient Greece”, as explained on the site bellasartes.gob.ar.
The third nucleus of the exhibited works is called “Femmes. Portraits of women”, where the images of certain women who marked him both in the personal dimension and in his artistic search are repeated with intensity. Among them stand out Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque.
Roque, whom Picasso met in a ceramics workshop, had the privilege of being represented in different versions (in oil, in engravings and in ceramics) until the painter’s death in 1973.
the fourth axis, “Towards Guernica. Art and political commitment”, collects the set of engravings that, around 1937, in the midst of the Spanish Civil War, the republican government commissioned the artist for the country’s pavilion at the International Exhibition in Paris, together with his famous mural “Guernica”. These engravings, which the author baptized with the name “Franco’s Dream and Lie”, proposed a satire on the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
The last of the axes of the exhibition, “Metamorphosis. Between the animal and the human: fauns, centaurs, bulls and horses”, presents the classic scenes of bullfighting that are part of the series “Corrida de toros”, made up of eight red earthenware plates made in 1959 at the Madoura Factory. Also exhibited are the aquatint “Horse”, conceived to illustrate “Natural History” (the encyclopedia of the naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc), Count of Buffon; and the white earthenware plate “Cabeza de Fauno” (1955).
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