Travelogues

The range and genius of Pablo Picasso

My first stop at Barcelona was at Museu Picasso. We weren’t allowed to click any pictures there, and so all these pictures are from the internet. I couldn’t but return amazed by the sheer range of the genius of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, who proclaimed art school was bunkum as he experimented with his art! To be honest, I never appreciated the genius of Pablo Picasso before this. His cubism never made any sense to me earlier. But this visit left me moved. It was as if I was seeing the work of five or six genius artists in one gallery.

In the words of Pablo Picasso:

“Everyone wants to understand art. Why don’t we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant part of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can’t explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”

Interestingly, Picasso chose to adopt his mother’s surname rather than his father’s name. I loved this portrait of his mother, especially the details of her white dress and her hair. Hard to think those strokes all came from white oil pastels. This was one of his formative works, and it was based on his initial training in realism.

There are several theories about who this scandalous woman in the painting titled The Wait was. Probably one of the courtesans he observed during that Bohemian era. There are other titles to this painting, one of which is “morphine addict”. I liked the background of this painting with its thick blotches of paint, which makes the red dress stand out.

Picasso’s landscapes were the ones which left me dazed. These were painted in his childhood when he was learning painting from his father.

There was one where he has painted a single wave. And when you move close to these works all you see is thick strokes of oil paint. The visual impact from a distance is extraordinary. Amazing how thick layers of paint could create such an impact. His brush strokes are to die for.

Science and Charity, 1897

This work was created by Picasso when he was 15 years old! The doctor is modelled by his father, José Ruiz Blasco. He entered this in a prestigious competition in order to get noticed and won the award for his work. Also exhibited in the museum are the six early sketches he tried out before he painted this huge canvas.

Olga in a Mantilla, 1917

Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. His detractors contemptuously called it the confetti technique! The red, orange, yellow and grey dots created such a magnificent picture- reminded me of the pixels we talk about today. This came a century ago.

It is amazing to see him shift from realism to this kind of abstract stuff. Notice the piano player and her foot on the dog. A lot of Picasso’s work shows the view out of a window or a balcony. There is a series of his paintings on pigeons, where he doesn’t bother about depth of perception. The sea and the dove coot are at the same level.

Las Meninas, 1957

There are a series of 58 paintings in this gallery on the Las Meninas theme. Picasso started an extended series of variations on Las Meninas 1656 of Diego Velazquez. The series is both a confrontation with one of the most important works in the history of Spanish painting as well as a commentary on contemporary events in Spain.

He said: If someone want to copy Las Meninas, entirely in good faith, for example, upon reaching a certain point and if that one was me, I would say..what if you put them a little more to the right or left? I’ll try to do it my way, forgetting about Velázquez. The test would surely bring me to modify or change the light because of having changed the position of a character. So, little by little, that would be a detestable Meninas for a traditional painter, but would be my Meninas. ”

The posture of this horse which has been disembowelled by the sharp instrument shakes you up with pain.

Between 1901 and 1904 Picasso painted essentially monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green, only occasionally warmed by other colors. This was called the Blue Period. Wonder if Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saanwariya was inspired by this series.

Leave a Reply