Picasso and Paper@ RA

exhibition on 30 January 2020

Two displays attracted my attention:

The Frugal Meal (1904)
this is signature Picasso to my mind
the oversized very thin long hands but particularly the combination of straight lines jarring somehow with the round shapes, the angles in the straight lines, the way the hands form right angles for instance

this is unbelievably one of his first etchings
it presents ‘melancholy and misery’

in his life, in 1901, a catastrophe affected him greatly, the suicide of a friend
his paintings became blue
the people in them became blue
it is as though he could not only feel the cold death on his own skin but saw it everywhere else too
this lasted several years
but this painting to me seems to be God telling him to stop
he had become interested in circus people during this time of grieving
clown faces often paint on a smile even though they are very sad
perhaps not coincidentally he gravitated toward them
in this image he portrays two such circus people
one very dark, very thin, one arm stretched out eerily around the second figure of a woman
she is practically naked and she is looking straight at the viewer
looking at life instead of looking away like the other figure
she is lighter and seems to me to depict someone who still has a lot to offer
the breasts seem to suggest this to my mind
this seems to me the message God was sending to Picasso
that he had a lot to offer

Whether he heard in his own way this guidance or by some other means
Picasso did change around this time
his subjects were now mostly female nudes
and the colours pink and flesh coloured

the other subject I found interesting is Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907)
what intrigued me most was a blue shard in the centre
it made me wonder whether this was how Picasso resolved the blue period
ever present but with a different emphasis
the figures Picasso painted around that time have no or very small mouths
indicating to me a lack ability to speak
those mouths, unlikely to have been a feature of reality in Spain and France
the women are worked and re-worked over a long period of time
and feature eventually masks
of different natures
their entire bodies are transformed to look like sheets, bed sheets perhaps, and the sheets look like paper, I guess to Picasso, this would have been more familiar

so that the masks and paper-like bodies are able to express what the voice could not perhaps
the women are perhaps women of a brothel, this seems to be suggested in some of the notes on the sketches leading up to the painting
Picasso then perhaps is able to give a kind of truth back to these women who are valued for their physical beauty and often painted for it, in this he seems to give them back a voice, an ability to express themselves honestly

is this what he was looking for always
perhaps inspired by his friend’s shocking act, he seems to have looked, at least in these two examples, for characters who would have been unable to express themselves truly and tried to give them a voice, in a way that he had been unable to do for his friend

in les Demoiselles D’Avignon the blue shard is still present but it does not take over the picture because Picasso has found a way of dealing with his grief by giving this voice back to people who would otherwise have no way of expressing themselves honestly as perhaps he felt had been the case for his friend

just guessing really, but this is what I found of interest