There was a small hole in the wall and he reached inside holding a lantern. Do you see anything? someone asked..."Yes, wonderful things."
Howard Carter ( 1874-1939 ) archaeologist
Max Klinger and The Call a painting by Gauguin are racing through his mind as he walks in quick uneven steps down the streets of Montmartre in the evening to the north slopes of La Butte. The sign had a painting of a rabbit dancing in a frying pan and the word "Maelstrom" written in a foreign language. Inside it is dimly lit and full of noise. Sitting down he can just make out two large statues. One is of a Hindu goddess and the other Christ on the cross. From right behind him he hears a woman's voice. Tap the deck of cards three times , she said. Taking the tarot cards she shuffles them and places one card face down on the table in front of him and he looks down at it. The painting was taller than the artist standing next to it in his studio with his few friends. There were three figures in the blue painting and one figure was holding an infant in its arms. One of the group of friends - a poet - seeing the painting for the first time said, "It is life."
Throughout the history of Western art there are two major trends...one The Romantic ( seen in Van Gogh who Picasso called his Mother ) and the other The Classical ( seen in Cezanne who Picasso called his Father ). In Picasso's body of work both of these very different trends are dealt with. To paraphrase Marcel Duchamp a contemporary of Picasso - I contradict myself in order not to become a slave to what I believe in....The first painting in the exhibit...the death head and candle..."The Death of Casagemas"- 1901...is the first theme/image that goes on to reoccur later in Picasso's work in the 1930's found in Gallery 9. This painting leads to his blue period and his greatest work of that period -" La Vie". A title that best describes what Picasso dealt with in his body of
work. In Gallery 12 there is a photograph from the blue period - " Fernand Oliver, Picasso, and Ramon Reventos" - if you look closely there can be seen in the background on the wall, postcards, magazine cut-outs, and photographs of women...women from paintings, madonna's , and real women of that time - women. I would like to think that at some level the idea of the archetype was alive in Picasso's circle at that time period. Picasso's work may be a diary, but it is more than just an illustrated diary. Picasso hoped that someday there would be something he called The Museum of Man. Picasso sometimes dated his work down to the time of day of completion. By the end of the cubist period stood as an everyman in a balancing act every moment between the past and future.
In his cubists period he also did his neoclassical paintings. Thinking of the concept of classical and not the image it can be seen that the cubists paintings and the neoclassical paintings have very little difference between them. In the Rose period - in Gallery 1 -can be seen " Two Brothers" -1906, an image that is basicly the same as "The Man With A Sheep"- 1943, from Gallery 9...Picasso's answer to Matisse's large pastoral painting "the Joy Of Life" , was "The Women of Avignon"-1908. A direct look at the real world that dips into the subconscious ( later it would catch the eye of Andra Breton ) inspired by the inner journeys and themes of African art. The title of a painting by Max Ernst comes to mind concerning this painting "The Blind Swimmer." In The Women of Avignon" two men are in a brothel with three women. Avignon was known at the time by Picasso's circle of friends for two things ... being the former papal center in the middle ages, and for its brothels. This painting began Picasso's rebellion against 19th century art....Picasso's last exhibition in 1973 was in the former papal center in Avignon and consisted of a group of painting that individually may be uneven in quality but were meant to be experienced as a collective...as his entire body of work is meant to be experienced.
In Gallery " Man With A Sheep", is perfectly placed between "Cat Catching A Bird" - one animal ripping apart another...and "Massacre In Korea" ....helpless women and children before men with weapons. Taken together these three works work as one - fully realized- beyond illustration and beyond words which is why his work is often on the level of art and not illustration. Standing in Gallery 9 it is fascinating to see to the right " Goat Skull and A Candle" ( "The Death of Casagemas" from Gallery 1 ) and in the distance , in the next gallery "The Kiss"...done as a mosaic or fresco from ancient Rome, and further on a painting "Man Playing A Mandolin To A Reclining Nude" a theme going back in western art. That view is as impressive an alignment as any rare occurrence in astronomy.
In Gallery 11, a bronze Pregnant Goat as ghostly as the plaster casts from Pompeii... a bronze Pregnant Woman done as a plant stalk with arms and legs - the force of life - nature - the amazing mystery...across from that a large landscape done without the self , the ego , beyond fame. The last two paintings in the exhibit placed across from each other...Picasso once said that wherever there is a nude woman there is a man trying to watch her...see the third floor contemporary art for an example by another artist, or the strip club across the street. The Matador/A Man/Picasso will be forever looking across the room at Reclining Woman With A Pillow/ A Woman/ Jacqueline. It is the only signed painting in the exhibit - a high complement to the reclining nude across the room from him.
"If you have to tell a story with words your in trouble. The story should be told with images."
All works © David Verba: No images may be used without permission from the artist.