Monday 18 June 2007 7 responses

On Picasso standing on the shoulders of giants.

I have been wanting to paint this last week or so, so maybe it is time to re-evaluate things and possibly myself. Take the painting of Rugby I've just begun as an example. Will it just be another very ordinary town scape or something more. I've been wanting more for some time, but haven't been able to see a way forward. I can almost feel what I want but not describe it in visual terms. Now that does give me a clue. We can paint what we feel. Anyhow in order to get a better idea I am looking at one of the greatest creative innovators of if all time to see if I can pick up any hints.

My reference is Picasso, O'Mahony, Star Fire, 2006

"By all rights, Picasso should have become a minor artist, a fashionable illustrator or decorative painter. But something happened to change his fate."

That's Karmel writing the book's foreword. I find it hard to believe that even he believed that statement, but accept the exaggeration he has used to make a point. In 1905 Picasso met the Stein family, and so the work of Cezanne and Matisse.

The book is a sketch in which O'Mahony takes us through Picasso's life examining his circumstances and society at large at the time of particular works being produced. It offers an insight into Picasso's character and how he reacted to situations. We see the man as a complex character; arrogant, unable to sustain a relationship, continually wanting change, as turbulent as the sea, yet able to take high moral ground. He seemed to hate the very things he loved doing. He remained in Nazi occupied France and joined the Communist Party in 1944. He was always wanting the new but also had considerable courage which enabled him to plunge ahead at considerable risk.

The young artist certainly showed exceptional talent a very early age and became well trained in classical art techniques. But what happened to cause an awakening. His going to Paris no doubt shows an indication he felt himself to be missing something. Did visits to the arty Four Cats in Barcelona fuel his fire? In Paris he is very much influenced by Toulouse-Lautrec but is not producing anything particularly new. Perhaps it was just one of those times in life when good things seem to come to an end and it is time to move on or stagnate. It may be down to opinion, but I find his works of the Blue Period to be meaningful and the Rose Period beautiful. They were not shocking but I'd be prepared to challenge Karmel's statement that Picasso was still a minor artist.

No doubt the young Picasso recognised in Cezanne a man who had in many respects recreated art. He would climb on that artist's shoulders, leap off and run. There is also the fact that Cezanne showed the possibilities to explore a vision which could also incorporate the changing facets of society and scientific discovery. The timing simply could not have been better. In 1906 Picasso's palette is sometimes simplified but the landscapes are otherwise pretty well ordinary. The big breakthrough was however happening in 1907. It clearly took Picasso very little time to make this ground breaking transition. If we think Les Demoiselles d' Avignon ugly then so should we. Picasso is telling us that prostitution was not a nice business. It is in every sense a shocking painting about people for whom he felt considerable concern. He had been showing his sympathy for women of this type for years and his relationship with Fernande Oliver was still ongoing, so what emotive circumstance could have produced this explosion of power? Was it perhaps that Picasso had managed to find it within himself a new clarity of vision suddenly manifest after the years of searching.

Mike Fone

7 responses: to “ INTO THE NEW so far...

  • Kim 19.6.07

    I have always admired Picasso's work Mikey....especially his blue and rose well as his superb draughtsmanship....I saw a really magnificent film called 'Modigliani' in which Picasso played a major role....the guy who played the part was just as I imagined Picasso would have been IRL .....the consummate professional and a leader in the art world and society of Paris.....

  • Mikey 19.6.07

    Yes, his lines are something. How about the drawing of those impoverished people.

  • Kim 19.6.07

    he was so versatile Mikey...and and of course all those spectacular backdrops that he did for the ballets........

  • Anonymous 19.6.07

    Another fantastic article, mikey. Sometimes I forget how amazingly talented Picasso was, thanks for reminding me.

  • Anonymous 22.6.07

    I's just finished my long post when the system when up the spout and refreshed the page. I'll have the give it another check for funny system immigrants. Theres no trojans anyway.

    Here's a little bit and maybe I'll give a few of these at a time.

    I call Picasso a complex character becaue he does seem to have been at odds with himself. As a monster he would have been more in character takig sides with Franco and the Nazis. However, there he is campainging for peace, painting doves. Perhaps it is the desire for peace in his own life he is expressing. Yet in so many of his own paintings he is creating monsters. Does the minatour with horse give a clue. Here is the minatour tenderly carrying the dead horse, his victim.


  • Mike 22.6.07

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Kim 22.6.07

    hi Mikey
    there was a duplicate post of your last comment here so I deleted the blogs have been playing up since's a real headache !!!!