The Picasso Problem



Nu couché au lit bleu 1946

About fifteen years ago I took a holiday in Antibes on the Cote D'Azur. So, knowing that it's a good place to see Art both old and new I decided to go back this year.  In nearby Biot, a medieval hilltop village, there is the Musee National Fernand Leger, which I visited before but didn't this time as there is so much more to see in the area.

In Antibes there is the Musee Grimaldi, a Roman fort, rebuilt in the 14th century, this is where Picasso stayed and worked briefly and dedicated works produced there around 1945 - 1949.  It's now called The Musee Picasso.

Picasso said "Anyone who wants to see them will have to come to Antibes" and I would say that's a pretty good excuse to take a holiday there, so I did. Whilst inside, sitting down and looking at one of his works, a man sitting next to me started a conversation about Picasso.  He asked me if I liked him and I said I wasn't sure, that I had changed my mind about him several times in my life.  The man went on to talk about what "a bastard" he was to women, but I found myself defending Picasso because I felt that as he was one of the rare examples of a prolific artist who was both rich and successful in his own lifetime, who subsequently had many women, probably due to that success. However, I felt that women were superfluous to him because he was totally focused on his work and if you think about it, he had to be to produce and innovate as much as he did.

I felt that Picasso, often photographed in later life in his shorts with next to nothing on, didn't give a damn about anything, that's why he could be photographed like that.  If you visit you will see many photographs of him in just his shorts, taken by his friend Michel Sima.  Picasso was successful but he pissed off a lot of people who got close to him, mostly women who were involved with him.  I suspect he mainly needed women for sex.  His celebrity status meant he could be rich fodder for the press, much like celebrities today.  Stories would be written about his private life, and the women in his life.  He had the mainstream attention many other artists would never have had.

By the time he was an older man the sexual revolution was happening and feminism was on the up. Picasso was now seen to be a bit chauvinistic and misogynistic, a little out of fashion.  Add this to his rather extreme abstraction in many of his paintings of women and we can interpret this as a way of brutalising women.

This is why I found myself saying that I didn't like Picasso for years, but I've changed again, because I now feel he was an artist before anything else.  Art was probably more important to him than his women, children, money, clothes and socialising.  This is one of the reasons why he was so prolific and such an innovator, he didn't let anything get in his way.

He is credited with being the first to apply paper with words on to a painting, thus leading to movements rich in this idea like Dada. Here's an example from 1908 which proves how early he was using this technique.

The Dream, 1908


Also, the Russian Constructivists were heavily influenced by him after returning from visits to Paris.  This is apart from movements he is known for such as Cubism.

Many times artists, sometimes musicians, have been disliked for their behaviour or their politics.  It brings to mind Hitler's liking for Wagner's music, which meant that many people subsequently dismissed a great composer, which I believe is a shame.  I now think that I'll let Picasso's work speak for itself. I will not let his celebrity reputation influence my opinion of his art.

I will be writing on other places to visit and see art in the area of Antibes soon.


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