Thursday, 26 February 2009

Les Demoiselles dAvignon – Pablo Picasso [updated]

Les Demoiselles dAvignon

Although it was only built last year, Frank Gehry’s fractured ‘Serpentine Gallery’ posted here at NOT PC the other day is part of the mainstream of twentieth-century western art – architecture just took a few more decades to really catch up.

“Twentieth-century art,” explains Stephen Hicks, “is Pablo Picasso's fractured world populated by vacant-eyed, disjointed beings. It is Edward Hopper's emotionally out-of-tune men and women in bland, worn settings. It is the predatory horror of Willem de Kooning's Woman series. It is Salvador Dali's surreal world in which the distinction between subjective dream states and objective reality is obliterated. It is Andy Warhol's smirking trivialization and mechanical reproductions. It is a reality that is captured presciently in Edvard Munch's The Scream, the horror of being a cypher in a world of hideously swirling near-formless forms. 
    The twentieth-century world is also the story of its own self-elimination.”

This was an entirely conscious intention.  Sayeth the ‘great man’ himself:

"Most people can today no longer expect to receive consolation from art. The refined, the rich, the distillers of quintessence (art critics) desire only the peculiar, the eccentric, the scandalous in today's art. And I myself, since the advent of cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted, and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my head. The less they understood them, the more they admired me. Through amusing myself with all these absurd farces, I became celebrated...but when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya, they were great painters. I am only a public clown. I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession of mine - more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last, it does have the merit of being honest."
    --Pablo Picasso, November1951

Here’s Jonathan Richman.


  1. You could step around it, like a pile of feces, and never think more about it, if it weren't so sad coming from a man who could create First Communion.

  2. PC and Jeff, wow, I learn something every day! Its very revealing to read what Picasso said about his own work and honestly that is almost exactly how I have viewed it. Its mainly absolute rubbish.

    Thanks for the link to First Communion Jeff; I never knew Picasso could actually paint at all until now. In First Communion, one can see that he had some idea of form and light etc albeit at a rudimentary level. It still shows some of the 2-dimensional flat quality of his later stuff, but at least he acknowledged the existence of a light source in this one.

    What a pity that he went on to produce crap all his life instead of developing his artistic talent (I suppose this was just a gross example of 'market rulz' hahahaha!!).

  3. Dave,

    Keep in mind that Picasso painted First Communion when he was 14-15 years old. Not bad for a young teenager.

  4. I think I'm going to be in the minority here when I say that I do like Picasso and love cubism. Used to hate it utterly, then I saw a good reproduction of Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase and it totally changed my view of 'modern art'. Once I got over the lack of breasts, that is.

  5. Oh man this is going to make sound like such a simpleton... I like lines! Beyond that, I don't really have an explanation, as it wasn't something that happened via rational thought. I guess when I saw Nude Descending a Staircase, something clicked and I could at least understand what cubists were trying to achieve - until then it just looked like a childish mess to me.

    Similarly, I couldn't give you a list of reasons to explain the depth of the love I have for my wife; it's just something that exists.

  6. What is the source for Picasso's confession?

  7. No, wait, I will tell you. The passage comes from Il Libro Nero, a book of fictitious interviews by Giovanni Papini, published in 1951. Papini also wrote interviews with Hitler and Cervantes.

  8. Yeah, I just googled that now too. Seems a slight modification may be in order PC, see:

    "That interview is a notorious fake. According to Pierre Daix, in his respected 1977 biography of Picasso, the artist knew about II Libro Nero, but ignored it until 1955, when it was used against him by Franco's government. Because Picasso was a communist and this was the height of the Cold War, it was further disseminated by Nato intelligence.

    At this point Picasso asked Daix to expose the whole affair, which Daix did in a series of articles in Les Lettres franqaises between 1962 and 1965. In the biography Daix described the contents of II Libro Nero as `imaginary interviews and false confessions'.

    Papini was not a fraud, but a journalist who used the literary device of the pretend interview to write profiles of famous people, including Kafka, Tolstoy, Freud, Molotov, Hitler, Cervantes, Goethe, William Blake and Robert Browning. Picasso never met Papini and never said the words Papini attributed to him."


  9. Papini was not a journalist but a satirist. He was also a Fascist.

  10. Ah 'tis a pity.

    The "quote" so well describes the absurd farce that is so much of modern "art," I could only assume a man as intelligent as Picasso knew the game was in and was prepared to be open about it.

    Warhol was, to name one so called artist who was aware he was a total fraud.

    Sad then that it doesn't itself have the merit of being honest.

  11. It does not such thing. It does not describe Modern Art, nor does it reflect Picasso's attitude to his work, which was very sincere. It is simply not true.

    The myth that Modernists are tricking their audience is oft repeated but without foundation.

    And in what respect was Warhol a fraud and aware of such?

  12. In every respect I say he is here (which, bizarrely enough is the only place online I can find this post from my old column).

    "The myth that Modernists are tricking their audience is oft repeated but without foundation."

    Really? It would be even worse for them if they were sincere.

  13. You say Warhol is a fraud, but that is not the same as Warhol admitting he was such.


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