Posts Tagged ‘Desmoiselles’

Blackpaint 135

May 17, 2010

Alastair Sooke’s Picasso programme

Big disappointment, this.  There was plenty on Blue Period (cue Miles Davis’ “Blues for Pablo”), Rose Period, Saltimbanques, Harlequins; there was that lovely picture of Gertrude Stein that was on the cover of the Penguin “Autobiography of Alice B Toklas”.  There was the suicide in the cafe.

My first big gripe was the description of the women in “Desmoiselles” as ugly!  The two on the viewer’s right with the mask -like faces, I suppose, but the others, staring directly out of the picture, are beautiful, surely, both in face and body.  Their gaze may be interpreted as challenging, but that was nothing new – Manet’s “Olympia”, for example.

Sooke’s comments on “Three Dancers” (hellish, middle one a parodic crucifixion, etc.) were fair enough, but a bit overstated.

It was interesting to see the detailed close-ups of the Cubist surfaces – the overworking, varied texture; could have been St. Ives!

Then, we’re on the beach at Antibes in the 30s (where is the “bone” beach picture of 1929?) – and then, Spanish Civil War and Guernica.

“Guernica” is obviously hugely important depiction of  brutality of war, an image resurrected over and over again – there was the story of the covering of the Guernica tapestry in the UN at the time of the 1st Iraq war – BUT is it really as shocking as Sooke appears to find it?  How can it be, next to photographs of the real thing?  Film and photographs of the Kovno garage massacre and the einsatsgruppen, Dresden, Belsen – that is shocking;  “Guernica” is not.  In fact, the man entering on the right like some sort of swooping ghost, I find vaguely comic and endearing.  Bathetic, I think, is the right word.

It strikes me that Sooke follows the line that Simon Schama did in his recent programme on Picasso; that “Guernica” was really the last important and original work that P did and that afterwards, he was reproducing his own ideas, sort of feeding off himself with endless variations in different mediums (ceramics, for example).  Sooke doesn’t actually say this, but the scant attention paid to the post-Guernica stuff seems to bear it out.  We got “Sylvette” – and an interview with her – but little else in the way of pictures.  Instead, Sooke moved on to merchandising; stripey sailor tops, Andy Warhol, signatures on cars.  This was interesting in a way, and fitted with the other progs on Warhol and Matisse (and, no doubt, Dali), but it meant that great swathes of the paintings were left out.  A few examples:

  • The statuesque women 1921 -3
  • Three Musicians 1923
  • “Bone” pictures 1929
  • Blimp nymphs with beach ball 1932
  • Dreaming woman
  • Night Fishing at Antibes 1939
  • Re-working of classics (Dejeuner sur l’herbe, Women of Algiers)

Would have been great to see any, or all the above.

Not Picasso.