Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Barcelona Journal IV: Picasso
Watercolor by Hallie Cohen
Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881 and in l895 arrived in
Barcelona, as a young art student. If you’d seen his work for sale on a street
corner would you have snapped it up? If it was the painting of his dog Klipper,
maybe not, but if you knew anything about art you would have grabbed at two
postcard sized paintings exhibited as “Two Rooms” now at the Museum, which contains a collection of 4249 pieces, many from the early stages of his career. The museum was created by Picasso secretary and biographer Jaume Sabartes at Picasso’s request and Picasso contributed many works in the collection. Clearly
Picasso was one of the world’s great Picasso collectors in l960, when he first proposed the idea to Sabartes. Many of the early works on exhibit demonstrate the influence
on Picasso of other proto-modernists like Cezanne, Manet and Toulouse Lautrec.
But his portraits and set pieces have an authority which demonstrate his immersion in and
understanding of the Old Masters,--something which is exemplified by his "Science and Charity,” which was painted in l897 when Picasso was only 15 and which depicts a doctor, nun and infant and attending to a dying woman. The curators quote Picasso himself from his biographer
Jaume Sabartes in L’Atelier de Picasso. The
subject are the 58 paintings based on Velasquez's “Las Meninas,” (1957) which are also exhibited in the museum. “Suppose one were to make a copy of “Las Meninas” in
good faith. If it were me the moment would come when I would say to myself:
suppose I moved this figure to the right or a little to the left. If the case
arose, I would do it my own way forgetting Velasquez. I would almost certainly
be tempted to modify the light or arrange it differently in view of the changed positions of the figures.” Is that ever an understatement! What emerged was a
synthetic cubist concerto. It’s a homage in the way some of his portraits of his
former mistresses are homages and distortions at the same time.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.