07 September 2009

loving Picasso, again

the Nasher

I went to see the Picasso exhibit at the Nasher Museum on Duke University's campus- the ALLURE OF LANGUAGE. The exhibition has been organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, with the Nasher Museum's support.

60 works created between 1900 and 1969 are being shown, with The Nasher being the only traveling venue
scheduled. I will return again, and again. It is a fascinating look at the man, his exuberance for his art- an art he could express in any medium- and this show exhibits that. I wondered -If my esteem for Picasso could be heightened. Yes.

Picasso's love for language was stimulated by the bohemian life in Montmartre . He took up residence there in 1904-His friends were the writers and poets, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy and Guillaume Apollinaire. Great friend and patron Gertrude Stein said he "knew painting, and did not need to know painters; so he lived among poets." Wallace Stevens said Picasso was a "man whose center is poetry, whether or not he is a poet."

Firstly, the Nasher is an absolute jewel. Consistently mounting incredible exhibitions. PICASSO AND THE ALLURE OF LANGUAGE may be its best yet.

I am captivated by this exhibit-Perhaps for me- it is just because it's Picasso, having been fascinated with the man and his art since my early college days. This particular exhibition is everything I love, Art & the Written Word.

I'm not going to go through a litany of this piece and that. I am not expert on Picasso- the show is curated beautifully by Susan Greenberg Fisher and Patricia Leighton- I will leave that to them.

My Impressions From the Allure of Language:

Immediately upon entering the gallery- I was struck by the bold Picasso RED used to highlight the gallery's walls. Inspired. It is much to an orange, but the exhibit speaks of RED so RED it is. That color pulses throughout and breathes an energy into the show- culminating in Picasso's divine calligraphic work LE CHANT DES MORTS for Pierre Reverdy (The Song of the Dead)- 125 lithographs in red.

Picasso's energy is present, so much to see , but little in terms of the volume of his work. It is mind boggling-this exhibit is too-with 60 works, it seems like more. I think it is this energy reverberating in the venue that makes the content a bit overwhelming. The artist giant of a man was game for everything.

The works in the show range from drawings, illustrations, formal paintings- and most fascinating of all to see is the canvas Picasso worked on. Everything was a canvas for Picasso- a frilly postal carte, a newspaper for studies, a cigarette label, a calling card, a photograph. His canvas- was LIFE. It seems he gave of himself to all the projects that his admirers and friends proposed. His range, along with his joie de vivre was collosal.

Stein with her portrait by Picasso
image from Hemingway's Paris

In 1905, Picasso met Gertrude Stein, an expatriate American writer who became the artist’s principal patron in Paris. Threaded throughout the gallery is evidence of Picasso's relationship with Gertrude Stein. I think-She may be his feminine ID. A book- Pablo Picasso Gertrude Stein CORRESPONDENCE promises to enlighten me on their relationship. I am always drawn to these staunch relationships with artists and their followers. Perhaps, Stein, his patron, was his equal. He maintained a fascination with her throughout his life.

One on the works- that fascinated me was the collage he created for Misses-

Photo: 2008 Estate of Pablo Picasso

Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

via the NYTIMES

with its single calling card from Stein & Tolkas, a known pair, a packet of cigarettes drawn and a touch of realism- the label from a cigarette pack.

The story too fascinates. Gertrude Stein and Alice Tolkas dropped in for a visit and finding their friend out- left the Miss Gertrude Stein- Miss Alice Tolkas calling card with the right corner turned- properly notifying its recipient of their visit. Always ever clever, Picasso, created this assemblage and presented it to them.

The work FIRST STEPS was shown in Paris at the exhibition- Salon de la Liberation- after the War. According to the Yale University book, Picasso: The Allure of Language, Picasso was a liability during the war because the Nazi's saw him as a "degenerate artist," and though his work was occasionally seen in group shows, for the most part it was invisible to the art world during World War II.

I am drawn to this and see much innocence and a mother's love. The critiques of this work in the Yale Press book are esoteric -with much about the war being at its root, the placement of the mother in the work,etc. I see the initial first step, a mother's care, her knowledge that this is just the beginning, a full expression of joy. Picasso explained his tight fit of the mother as having to be added- "He would have fallen" laughing "because he doesn't know how to walk yet. So I added his mother to the canvas later, to hold him up." (from Picasso and the Lure of Language, Yale Press) For Picasso-it was simple enough. Along with First Steps, the exhibit includes a wonderful study of First Steps on a full page of newspaper working out the position of the feet.

The book of illustrated poems LE CHANT DES MORTS for Pierre Reverdy (The Song of the Dead)- 125 lithographs in red is the Highlight of the showing.

image from Christies here

I took in Picasso at the Nasher with a darling friend- as children we shared a love of poetry. She paints- an inherited gift from her great grandmother. We observed together, we wandered off & we commented on many things.

"Picasso was sexy. Don't you think he was sexy? " KCS
"Well-Yes, the genius, the greatness was and he obviously was devastatingly so to many women." PGT

She followed up later with an email saying her 20 year old thinks he's HOT too.

photograph by Edward Quinn via (here)

the photographer's site (here)

As I think about it -Sure he was sexy- but It must have been his energy-for everything- ART, POETRY, LOVE & LIFE,
that's what drew so many women to Him,
that's what will draw me back.

read More at Style Court: Maybe a road trip to ...

August 20, 2009- January 3, 2010.


  1. Dear,
    More Picasso? You are loving him aren't you?

  2. His work was so intense. You feel the emotion of the pieces so intently. They almost reach out from the canvas and take you by the shoulders.

    I rather think he might have been rather difficult to live with, however.

    And "Basket"? For a poodle? Why?

  3. As an artist there is no comparison with any other. Extraordinary work. There's a photograph of Paul Bowles with a younger Basket visiting Gertrude Stein at Bilignin in "Yesterday's Perfume: An Intimate Memoir of Paul Bowles" by Cherie Nutting and Paul Bowles.

  4. Marvellous to be your companion at the exhibition.
    I never found Picasso sexy myself probably because I prefer shy boys. Did I SAY THAT??

    Been away for a while and can't keep up with yet more glorious posts. Saving Q Elizabeth for later.

  5. thanks for staying with me on Picasso- yes a genius and Gertrude Stein, I can't wait to read their correspondence.

    PT&E I will let you know if Basket appears again-I bet so.la

  6. Rose- So glad you are back, comments and posts, I can not imagine shy boys- toss of the Queen? my my my!

  7. Loved your post about our visit. Still think he's HOT.

  8. Little-

    Look at Pablo standing in his studio...hundreds of masterpieces stacked in the background...so impressive.

    Loved this post--and the picture of Gertrude in front of her portrait...
    Later, when she cut her hair, he complained that she had ruined her likeness.
    And...when someone complained that the GS portrait did not look like her...PP responded "no, but she will grow to look like it."
    Happy days, www.thestylesaloniste.copm,

  9. DDS,
    I have seen that quote, Which is brilliant. Pablo was a sexy beast,no?

  10. Smiffereens-
    You must be going to your refrigerator a LOT these days. xx,G



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