I believe the name is known to almost everybody in the world.

“Painting is a dramatic action in the course of which reality finds itself split apart.” Or so he says. But in his paintings reality is, if not split apart, then utterly distorted to fit the ideal image in his own mind. …And I am not a fan of that. I love classical art, realism, impressionism…in few: the complete opposite of what is modern art, surrealism, and —oh God!—cubism. Picasso, as you know, is a modern artist, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century,but also very versatile. And that’s what I loved about him.

Before I proceed, let me plead for apologies a million times! For I forgot to post this yesterday.

I saw the Picasso exhibition that came to Toronto’s AGO from the Musee National Picasso. Twice. Once on Wednesday, with my mom; once yesterday, Friday, with my friend. I enjoyed seeing it twice: the first time I was anticipating “weird” art, and not really hoping to enjoy the exhibition, so I had a general view of the paintings; but the second time I paid attention to the details, the colours, individual brush strokes, the technique, rendering, shading, use of line, et cetera. I realized that Picasso can paint realism, besides painting abstract. Here are the paintings I enjoyed most, and some text accompanying each.

Pablo Picasso. Head of a Woman in Profile (Tête de femme de profil). 1905. Drypoint on copper.

This image I found on Goodle only represents a fraction of the rendering and colour, you have to see it live. The shading around the eye and nose was magnificent, the vertical strokes emphasize the leanness of the woman’s face (as my friend pointed out), and her profile is very unusual. I love the tight, thin lips, the pensive eye, ultra-thin eyebrow, and sharp nose. Oh, and the hairstyle. 🙂

Pablo Picasso. Celestina (La Célestine). 1904. Oil on canvas.

Part of his Blue Period, the one-eyed woman is Picasso’s monochromatic painting that became the first of my two top favourites. It is such a strong image, the use of blue and navy colours gives it an eerie feel. In a white room of meek drawings, studies, and roughs, this painting stood out to me like only one other. Portrait of Olga Khokhlova, his wife.

Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Olga in an Armchair (Portrait d’Olga dans un fauteuil). 1918. Oil on canvas.

From what I’ve counted, depicted in his paintings, Picasso had about three or four mistresses. (Edit: he actually had seven. wow.) But he only had one wife. Sure, they had a hasty marriage and quarreled for the rest of their lives (never divorced, though), but I don’t think he ever painted any of his mistresses like this. In realism, is one, but also the way she is painted, her eyes, a mark of subtle grief printed on her face and in her posture and in the way she loosely holds the fan. I believe in this moment he truly loved her, and only her. There is also a photograph of this exact position, taken by Picasso. But she does not look nearly as perfect in the photo, as she does  in the way he saw her, and portrayed her. Pity it isn’t finished.

Pablo Picasso. Reading (La Lecture). 1932. Oil on canvas.

What a contrast of style! This is one of his later works, when he transitioned into surrealism. It is of Marie-Therese, one of the multiple mistresses. Note the “split” head. The colours and asymmetry are what attracted me to this painting.

Pablo Picasso. Bullfight: Death of the Torero (Corrida: la mort du torero). 1933. Oil on wood panel.

I thought this painting was extremely powerful! It was extremely bright too, much brighter in real life. Done with minute detail (note the bull’s fur), there is a lot going on in the picture. Picasso, a Spaniard in origin, must have seen many corridas in his lifetime (there is a photograph of him and Jean Cocteau during one), but did he actually witness the death of this performer? Or did something else move him to depict it so vividly.

Pablo Picasso. The Monotauromachy (La Minotauromachie). 1935. Etching, scarper and burin on copper, 2nd state.

To take a break from colour, here is a black and white drawing. It is much lighter in actuality, and there is a ton of detail. I really like the fragment of two women and two doves looking through an opening in the wall (top left, if you can manage to discern it). This also depicts death of a human by a bull (or at least, the head of one), like the upper painting, but though connected by this similarity, the works are very different, in terms of everything.

Pablo Picasso. Jacqueline with Crossed Hands (Jacqueline aux mains croisées). 1954. Oil on canvas.

Another mistress. Her face is very distinct, while the rest of her body is very generally painted. Her position is stiff too, a different take on the part of Picasso, who always liked drawing women in voluptuous, open poses. Jacqueline is the one who refused to pose nude for Picasso, but this did not prevent him from painting her so, from imagination or memory.

Pablo Picasso. The Studio of La Californie (L’Atelier de la Californie). 1956. Oil on canvas.

I liked this one, as well. For me, the centre of interest is the blank canvas, waiting to be perused. It contrasts with the surroundings, and the other paintings, and remains “tantalizingly blank” (quoting the gallery’s side-note).

Pablo Picasso. Still Life with Pitcher and Apples (Nature morte au pichet et aux pommes). 1919. Oil on canvas.

I saved the most interesting painting for last. It seems like a traditional nature morte, you would think, but the interesting part lies in the fact that Picasso painted it in a traditional way, but with a nontraditional view… For example, note the unusual composition: apples in a plate on top of the pitcher. And note this: even when painting traditional subjects, Picasso twisted them by painting himself as one of the objects. Here, he is the pitcher and the apples represent his friends and lovers. Interesting, right?! 🙂 And also visually pleasing.

To complete this post, here is Picasso behind the Windowpaine, by Robert Doisneau. A very strong and representative photograph of the artist behind the paintings. Or, rather, in front of them.

I think one of the best things about art is that it has no language, it needs not be translated. You can come from anywhere in the world, and art would still be open to you even when everything else isn’t. This is not a quote, just my thoughts…

Who are your favourite artists? Do you like Picasso? Do you understand him? Do you think that art needs to be understood or simply enjoyed, or depending, or both, or…express yourself!

2 responses to “Picasso

  1. I saw the exhibit yesterday and loved it. The problem is they were sold out of the exhibit posters. I am trying to find one to buy and frame.

    • Hah, I had to see it yesterday for the third time!(accompanying my brother). I noticed they were sold out…but I am sure you can find some online; if not from AGO then from some other seller.

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