Monday, September 13, 2010

Picasso's War Years

I woke this morning thinking, among other things, about where Picasso went during World War II. When the Germans occupied France, did Picasso just continue working in his studio?

A quick Google search reveals that he went to Rome, and continued painting. During the war his
paintings were more somber, with images of death being part of the subject matter. He was in his early 70's there and fathered two children with painter Francoise Gilot.

It seems impossible that the artist could have moved all his work out of France at that time, so what became of his studio? Some answers can be found in this 1999 article from The New York Observer in which Hilton Kramer critiques a new Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim, or rather, critiques the artist himself in a column cynically titled, "Everybody Loves Picasso, Even Critics and Nazis."

It's a biting piece, and an interesting read. Writes Kramer, "Like certain soap operas that periodically introduce new faces while recounting the same old stories again and again, Picasso exhibitions now offer the museum-going public the comfortable familiarity of an oft-told tale. We don't go to these exhibitions in a state of suspense. We already know the basic scenario: The hero, a seductive scoundrel, is more likely than not to behave badly, but he can nonetheless be expected to triumph in the end. It is not only that so many women succumb to his charms; all of society does likewise. Hardheaded intellectuals melt in his presence; Nazi Gauleiters show him every courtesy. No matter what his failings or offenses may be, in art or in life, Picasso will be forgiven everything in the name of genius and celebrity. That is the script, and we know it by heart."

The title alone is dripping with sarcasm. It reminds me of the final cut on Dylan's latest CD Together Through Life. The song is titled, "It's All Good" but once your cranked into it you know he means just the opposite.

As for the artwork to be seen at the Guggenheim show, Kramer goes on to disparage its quality, calling it "second and third rate Picasso." In other words it is art by a famous hand, but for the most part not significant.

If unfamiliar with the span of Picasso's work in its entirety, here's a quick overview of the various seasons in the life of this influential painter of the 20th century.

In the meantime, make your life a masterpiece.

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