Portrait of the artist’s father. Pablo Picasso. Barcelona, c. 1896. Oil and traces of graphite pencil on canvas. 42,3 x 30,8 cm. Gift of Pablo Picasso, 1970. MPB 110.027
After a couple weeks in Italy we flew to Spain, starting in Barcelona. There, we went to the Picasso Museum and the Sagrada Familia. The Picasso Museum happened to be about two blocks from where we were staying, so we went there first. Getting in is a logical and relatively painless process – line up outside, get inside to counter, buy a ticket for a specific entry time, hang out in the courtyard, go see art. Not too long to wait and not over-busy galleries.
The museum has an excellent collection of Picasso’s early work. The museum is laid out chronologically, which, perhaps the best part of the museum, clearly shows his ambitious development as an artist. He wasn’t afraid of failing and he wasn’t afraid of biting other people’s style, that’s for sure. You can see him trying different things like he was borrowing other people’s coats. After he gets to Paris it’s total chaos. He was obviously excited by everything going on at the time. He starts painting like Toulouse-Lautrec, barely makes it through a pointillist painting (no patience for that) and imitates van Dongen for a while. One of the connections to van Dongen is that Fernande Olivier was a model for both. That circle was small. He was talented enough to force his way through all that, a bunch of blue paintings, and into cubism.
I don’t really like Picasso, for one main reason – an ego which allowed him to make chaff and pretend it was wheat. (I leave his personal life aside) For every really important painting he made (pick any one) there were a pile of really lazy toss-offs. There are some of those in this Museum. Once he hits his abstract stride, he makes some paintings which looked to have taken him all of twenty minutes. Cha-ching! He just wasn’t much for editing I guess.
One of the interesting things about doing such an intense art tour is that you get to compare work successively. All of Picasso’s Las Meninas paintings, including tons of studies, are in Barcelona. He really tore it apart into it’s component pieces, and there are rooms full of it. The perseverance of his investigation is admirable. He painted the infanta in every possible cubist way. A week or so later I found myself in front of the actual Velásquez painting. Thinking about them both makes me wonder if Picasso found what he set out to.