Exhibition on Screen: Young Picasso (2019) - full transcript
Pablo Picasso is one of the greatest artists in the world, and until his death in 1973, he was the most prolific. How it all began ? How was Picasso built? After being ignored for too long, it's time to focus on the artist's early years, his education and the lessons that allowed him to accomplish the extraordinary. Three cities played a key role: Malaga, Barcelona and Paris. Young Picasso crosses them and explores their influence on the artist, analyzing specific works from his beginnings.
a young Spanish artist showed
his Parisian friends a new painting.
So horrified were they that he rolled
it up and hid it away for a decade.
Indeed, it wouldn't be
properly shown until 1937.
And yet it's a painting that
changed the course of art history.
The artist was Pablo Picasso.
Picasso was, like so many artists
at the beginning of the century
an interesting mixture of many influences.
There was a Spanish poet,
Antonio Machado, who said
that a man's homeland is his childhood.
Picasso's childhood is Málaga
and his core is Málaga.
This never left him.
He never forgot the
light of the Mediterranean.
He remembered the bulls that he
visited with his parents and his uncles
here in Málaga.
Flamenco was part of him.
Picasso is Málagueño but
he is also from Barcelona,
from La Coruña,
and he is also, eventually,
an artist that is formed in Paris
but his homeland, his childhood, is Málaga.
The Málaga in which Picasso was born
was a Málaga of class struggle,
a Málaga divided between
the upper bourgeoisie
and the working class.
It's a year in which Málaga's
industry is still strong
but is falling behind
in comparison with other industrial areas.
Especially the north
of Spain and Barcelona.
But Picasso's city was also the home
of the Golden Age of Málagueña painting.
In the city there are great painters
but all local.
Picasso, from childhood,
absorbed that environment.
One of the most important aspects of
Picasso's very nature
was the capacity he had for attention
fixation and, above all, retention.
Although Picasso studied in depth
the most important traditions of art
German, Italian, French
there was something in his work
that takes us directly to the south
to this hybrid south, a south
in which different cultures
have historically lived together.
The Jew, the Arab, the Christian.
I believe this is key to
understanding the work of Picasso
because it has the elements
the forms, these cultural elements
that, distinct from their place of
origin, comprised the south of Spain.
Here, in Málaga,
Picasso enjoyed bullfights
he admired doves and pigeons.
This brought him closer to Andalucía.
To his roots.
To his origins.
This is the house where
Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born
on October 25th, 1881.
This house had been inhabited
before the wedding of Picasso's father
by the father and his two sisters
but after the wedding of José Ruiz Blasco
with María Picasso López
the couple came to live here.
And this is where Picasso was born.
The family had a great
influence on Picasso.
The character of Doña María
the profession of Don José
were key influences in
his life and in his work.
Picasso grew up in a small
bourgeois family in Málaga
where thanks to his father's
profession and his father's friends
he came into direct contact with painting
with drawing, with colour.
Here he makes his first
drawings, his first paintings.
The childhood of Pablo
Picasso was an exciting one
because it was linked to art
since his father was an art teacher.
On the other hand his
childhood was full of visual stimuli.
Málaga was a small city.
He lived where there was
a lot of life on the streets
and that probably affected his
way of understanding the world.
Málaga and the presence of his father
were the key points of his influences.
I would say that when his father
was asking him to draw a pigeon
or to go to a corrida with him,
he was building his son with
very strong Spanish roots.
We cannot neglect the fact
that Don José is very important
for Pablo as an inspiration.
He realised that Pablo
was more than talented
and that this needed to be supported.
In 1891, a few days
before his tenth birthday,
Pablo arrived in a very
different part of Spain,
La Coruña on the northern Atlantic coast.
Pablo's father, José, had
secured a teaching role.
And it was here that he really taught
his young son how to paint with oils.
"In La Coruña, my father did not go out
unless it was to go to the art school.
On his return, he painted.
But nothing more.
The rest of the time, he looked
out the window at the falling rain
and then, in the end, he
abandoned painting for good.
Instead he gave me his
colours and his brushes
and he never painted again.
It frightened my parents that their child
dared exhibit his work.
Some friends chose a place,
an umbrella shop at Calle Real number 54,
more a junk shop selling
everything from headscarves to suits.
In spite of my cheap
prices the sales were poor.
I wouldn't have sold a thing
were it not for the generosity
of my father's friends..."
Picasso arrived in La Coruña on
October 14th, 1891 from Málaga.
He made the trip by
boat with his whole family.
They would stay in La Coruña
for three and a half years.
It was a very important
period for the young Picasso
because it was where he
started his academic training
and where he also began
to make his first pictures
with a completely free spirit.
That first year Picasso was
enrolled at secondary school
and the school of fine arts
which was in the same
building as the secondary school.
Picasso had as his teacher his own father
José Ruiz Blasco, who
had taken that position
and Picasso combined these
studies between 1892 and 1894
but then in 1894 his father
decided that his son end his normal studies
to stop studying mathematics and grammar
and to devote himself
solely to the study of art.
At the beginning of 1895
Pablo starts to study the natural figure
and it was Picasso's
father who paid the models
to pose for Picasso and his classmates.
It was here that Picasso
made considerable advances
because over two or three
months he made many portraits.
These portraits were important
not just from an artistic point of view
but from a psychological one
because Picasso exhibited these works
in the shop windows of the Calle Mayor
which was common for artists at that time.
Picasso received some
very complimentary reviews.
Some even compared
him to Giotto and Raphael.
These paintings, rather than
being considered works of genius
should be seen as the works
of a 13-year-old boy
already showing promise.
My grandfather realised that the
artistic scene was in Barcelona.
Of course, he was very
young: 13, 14 years old.
And there is a part of luck in his life
because when his father
was appointed in La Coruña,
was offered to make a switch
with someone in Barcelona,
it was just luck
because Pablo was going to be
part of the artistic scene of Spain
and from Barcelona everything was possible.
When one looks at Picasso's work
one always sees the desire to rebel
of not wanting to do what
others told him to do as an artist.
This is evident from the beginning
when, as a child he did
things that adults usually do
and later, as an adult
he did things that children do.
We are talking about an artist
who can be described as a great rebel
against the artistic academy
against the authority of others.
Very shortly after arriving in Barcelona
Picasso was enrolled
in the Llotja art school.
The training was very old-fashioned.
The young students did not like it
because the academy was
basically repetition and copying.
Picasso was very reluctant
to follow this training.
But there is the great paradox
that the academic training
that Picasso received
in La Coruña, in Barcelona
and later in Madrid
was decisive for his training as an artist.
Picasso is an artist
who throughout his life
will want to break the rules
and transgress from all the teaching
he had received in his training.
Despite this he is an artist who has
a very solid, very sound base.
A base that allowed him later to develop
in a more profound way as an artist.
The Picasso who arrived in Barcelona
at just 13 years of age
was no more than a student of fine arts.
He was not yet the genius he was to become.
Nor did he pass through Barcelona
as a great artist
recognised by all the world.
The Picasso that was in
Barcelona was an artist still evolving.
Very eclectic in the sense that he fed on
different influences that came from outside
but he had not yet defined his own style.
But in the meantime,
he was being influenced
from all directions.
I think that the Barcelona period
was important for two reasons.
The first, something more academic.
On the other side you
have the people of Barcelona
and those exotic subjects
like prostitutes or local people.
I think that Pablo in Barcelona
discovered how wide was the scope
to see through the people.
Of course, Barcelona was
offering a lot of inspiration.
The theme of this painting is a theme
that was really in vogue
in the late 19th century.
The subject of medicine,
of scientific advances
and in particular hospital medicine.
The young Picasso
chose a fashionable subject
that he knew would be
successful in a national exhibition.
The format was also
important for a national contest.
looked for themes that were in vogue
but also they had to be large-scale
which featured one or several characters.
The more complex, the more
the artist could demonstrate
their abilities and training.
For example he included hands
which always proved
difficult for an artist.
In 1896 and 1897 Picasso was
making many studies of hands
in the sketchbooks that
he carried in his pockets.
He was becoming trained in all subjects
not only in depicting clothes
or making compositions
but also showing the hands
and features of the subjects.
It could be said that this was the pinnacle
of his academic training
where he was still following a
path closely supervised by his father.
His father was the one who had organised
his professional career until now.
At this moment Picasso is tired
like any young man of his age
he wanted to do things in a different way
and these national
competitions, these subjects
no longer interested him.
But it had been his father
overseeing his career
and who surely posed here as the doctor.
This painting must have
been a challenge because
we do not know the exact dimensions
of the studio where he painted it
but clearly it was a small space.
It was a challenge for an artist
who was physically short
who was young
and not very experienced
to paint a work of this great size
in a space that did not
allow him a great perspective.
And some of the drawing
faults that are evident in this work
could come from the lack of perspective
not being far enough away from the work.
He received criticism
some quite harsh, a bit sarcastic.
In particular he was criticised
for the hand of the patient.
But without a doubt
Picasso, at the age he was then
They saw his potential.
His father and uncle saw his potential too
and paid for him to go to Madrid,
to study at the prestigious San
Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
The academic environment
and living alone in the city
did not appeal
but what did catch Picasso's
attention was the Prado Museum
and the glories of
Spanish art that lay within.
Velázquez, Goya, even El Greco and more.
But by the summer of the following year
he was back in Barcelona and
as likely to be in a bar as a gallery.
When Picasso begins to move
in the alternative world
in the bars and cafés of Barcelona
he initially relates to
a generation of artists
young artists who have not yet acquired
an important status in the artistic world.
Picasso is a young artist
who is still trying to
navigate the artistic world.
There were different tables
and it's obvious that at this stage
he is placed among
the less relevant artists.
But little by little
he will form bonds with the
great figures of Catalan art
who are the artists that, to begin with,
do not have contact with Picasso.
He as a teenager gets very much
involved with a group of artists
around the café of Els Quatre Gats
who were politically involved
because they were sympathisers of anarchism
and Catalan nationalism.
He must have been stricken
by this very lively
community of young artists.
In February 1900, Pablo
Picasso made a breakthrough.
In the back dining room
of the café Els Quatre Gats,
he held his first exhibition.
The dozens of portraits
hung in lines around the room
caught the attention and admiration
of the leading Catalan and
modernist artists of the day.
When he starts to frequent Quatre Gats
Picasso met Ramon
Casas and Santiago Rusiñol.
They were not only
going to influence his art
but they would also raise the
question of what is an artist?
Casas and Rusiñol had
gone to Paris very young.
They had lived the bohemian life.
They had taken morphine.
They were very different
in character to his father
who was very conventional.
So Picasso, at this moment
started thinking about Paris.
It was in Barcelona that he changed
after listening to his older companions
tell him about all of the wonders of Paris.
We have this wonderful
portrait from the year 1900
which is when Picasso
was occupying the studio
in Calle Riera de Sant Joan
with his friend Casagemas.
In this work we can see that Picasso
had already completely changed his style
from what he had been doing before.
His sister Lola had been
one of his first models.
This work is very odd
because we see that
Lola appears without a face
but it is an optical effect.
If we open a window and
the sun shines through
into a dimly lit room our
features are not visible.
Since Picasso is
essentially a realist painter
he was depicting it as he saw it.
The most important thing about this work
is that it is one of the few pictures
of Picasso's Barcelona studios.
Picasso had many studios in Barcelona
and we see representations from the windows
and from the terraces
of these studio exteriors.
The urban landscapes,
the roofs of Barcelona
are always depicted from
the windows of these studios.
But this is one of the few
that represents the
interior of Picasso's studio
and we see on the floor
a set of squashed paint tubes
that indicates that this was his studio.
In 1900 when he painted this
portrait he was 18 years old.
So he was a teenager who
was opening up to the world.
This search for colour.
This search for freedom.
This search for the explosion of life.
Picasso forged his
artistic identity in Barcelona
and met a lot of artists
and read many magazines.
His eye is formed in Barcelona,
in a Barcelona that is
already very open to Europe
and very open towards Paris.
Picasso first went to
Paris in the autumn of 1900
because one of his paintings
had been accepted at the
Universal Exhibition of that year,
which was the largest ever organised.
It was, of course, a
huge opportunity for him
to finally experience the big
city everybody was talking about.
"Pablo and I go to
café-concerts or the theatre.
They think they're doing Spanish dances...
Olé, olé, caramba, caramba
which left us in doubt about our origins.
The Boulevard de Clichy
is full of crazy places.
Everything is fanfare, tinsel and
papier-mâché stuffed with sawdust.
Tell our friends to come to Paris.
Because there's room for everybody
and money for anyone who works.
Rob, kill, assassinate,
do anything to come."
In 1900, he made his
first trip to France, to Paris.
He will make many trips
between 1900 and 1904
permanently in Paris in 1904.
Montmartre was a kind of Spanish colony.
There were many Spanish artists in Paris.
Picasso indeed thought of
himself as a Spanish exile in Paris
so there is a double culture
that resides in Picasso.
He will always remain Spanish.
At the same time he
consumed not only Parisian art
but the entire production
of the avant-garde
taking place in the French capital.
Pablo was born in a very comfortable life.
With his family, he
was a little king at home.
When he came to Paris
he had to face a different life.
He had to struggle to have food,
to live in a very cold place in the winter,
very hot in the summer.
I think that this shows his determination.
We see that Pablo was ready
to experience all the difficulties.
And he did. It was not a problem for him.
This is the first time he leaves Spain.
It's a real adventure.
He's with other artists
but he is effectively now free.
This is Picasso's overwhelming
feeling in the early years.
The freedom with his time.
To be curious about whatever he likes
outside the shackles of
the Academy of Fine Arts.
Now he can focus on everyday subjects
the street, the cabaret, beggars.
When he arrives in Paris
he can't speak French
so he hangs out with
his Spanish compatriots.
And in this period he starts to sign
his notebooks with "Yo, Picasso"
It's already a statement.
He is abandoning his father's
name abandoning the name of 'Ruiz'
and taking the name of his mother
which is less Spanish,
being Italian in origin.
He now has this new identity as 'Picasso'
someone ready to conquer
the Parisian art scene.
"We've already launched into work.
Tomorrow we'll light the heater
and we'll have to work furiously.
Whenever there is daylight
we are in the studio painting and drawing.
We all got together at Petit Poucet
and we all got drunk.
Utrillo wrote nursery rhymes,
Peio sang bawdy songs in Latin,
Picasso made sketches of
people, and I wrote verses."
"Picasso had a top hat
which was magnificent;
for although he always
had a taste for cheap clothes,
which he bought in workmen's stores,
this was the last touch of refinement:
he is very fastidious and
matches his underpants to his socks
with as much love as he makes a painting.
Everyone recognised that he had a
fire, a real brilliance, a painter's eye.
I spent the day looking at piles
and piles of Picasso's paintings!
He was making one or two each day or night,
and selling them for 150
francs on the Rue Laffitte."
Max Jacob, poet and critic.
You have to consider that
Paris was an exciting place
not only because of
the Universal Exhibition
and the architecture of Paris.
The Eiffel Tower, it was a dream.
It was also important because
it was attracting a crowd
coming from all over the world.
What happened in Paris was that
these references were multiplied.
From a visual point of view
Picasso was strongly impacted.
He was impacted by posters on the streets
by the galleries he could visit
many more than in Barcelona.
Here he could see the
works of the artists he admired
directly on gallery walls.
the greatest influence
on him in Paris in 1900
because he could go to Moulin
Rouge or Moulin de la Galette.
These were spaces that previously he knew
only through publications
or through the
testimonies of other artists.
Therefore the Picasso who went to Paris
was an artist who changes completely.
"If you were to see us
you wouldn't recognise us
because we've finally
become such hard workers.
All this about women must seem
to take all our strength, but no!
Not only do we spend our lives 'fondling',
but I've almost finished a painting
and, to be frank, I think
I've just about sold it.
Because of this, we are saying
goodbye to the bachelor life.
As of today we are going to bed at
ten and we're not going out anymore."
The nightlife was much
more exciting than Barcelona.
Reviews, music halls,
cabarets, Pigalle, Moulin Rouge.
You can see it in the artworks.
Pablo moved from the individual
human figures of poor people,
to a crowd of rich people enjoying
themselves, spending money
with beautiful women, beautiful dresses.
This is Paris in the 1900s.
I can understand that Pablo would
have walked to Paris to see that.
And there were rumours
that in Paris, in Montmartre,
collectors and art dealers
were attracted by new artists
and new forms of creation.
"Picasso is very young, 19 years old,
and at his age, I doubt if there are
many who have done what he has.
He has very great qualities
but also great defects."
Pere Coll, journalist & critic.
"I can imagine the reaction
of the illustrious bourgeois
upon seeing my exhibition but that
ought to be as important to us as applause,
that is to say, as you already know:
if the wise man doesn't approve, bad;
if the simpleton applauds, worse.
So I'm content."
"This very young Spanish painter,
who has only recently come among us,
is a passionate lover of modern life.
We think of him as a
lively, inquisitive person,
a keen observer of street
scenes and human adventures.
After a brief glance at his work
we are bound to imagine him
covering the canvas in furious haste,
impatient that he cannot wield the
large, colour-laden brushes faster.
Here we have a new
harmonist of bright tonalities,
with dazzling tones of
red, yellow, green and blue.
We realise at once
that Pablo Ruiz Picasso wants
to see and express everything."
Gustave Coquiot, critic.
At the Picasso Museum in Barcelona
we can clearly see Picasso's evolution.
We can also see the leap
that he made in Paris in 1900.
Picasso made his first trip
with his friend Casagemas
and later Pallarés and
Casas in September 1900
and they stayed four months.
Here Picasso would discover, first-hand
This greatly influenced his art.
Then Picasso went back
to Spain for a few months
before returning in May 1901
for his first exhibition
in the French capital.
The exhibition was organised by Pere Mañach
a young Catalan art dealer
who Picasso met in Paris in 1900
and who had organised this
exhibition at the Vollard Gallery
along with another
Spaniard, Francisco Iturrino.
When Picasso arrived in Paris
he brought artworks with him
quite colourful but largely Spanish themes
but he needed to make much more work.
He had to produce about 60 paintings
in just 15 days.
Picasso had no money to buy canvases
because canvas is expensive
and it takes time to dry.
So he used cardboard
as it was very cheap and dried fast.
So in the Vollard exhibition
many of his masterpieces
were painted on cardboard
such as this one called Margot, Waiting.
This is a very important work
because we see how Picasso
had already absorbed
all the artistic styles
that had been developed
a few years before in Paris.
For example we see that he mimics
Toulouse-Lautrec's subject matter
and Van Gogh's brushstrokes.
That thick, short brushstroke of Van Gogh.
He also used the colours
of the other impressionists.
We see this set of influences
that Picasso absorbed
to then make his own art.
He is someone who is constantly absorbing
who is very curious
and integrates what he sees
directly into his own work.
He works non-stop
despite his financial difficulties.
We know he sells for very little
a few drawings to an
innkeeper in Montmartre
so that he has enough
money to be able to continue.
We have to imagine
Picasso arriving in Paris
rather poor, as a 19-year-old
and installing himself in a friend's studio
with his friend Carles Casagemas
and it was an intense experience.
Because you had to rely
on a network just for survival.
This is perhaps what makes the
experience of these young modern artists
so special because they
created very strong bonds.
When they came to Paris
there was a big excitement
visiting a new place with new girls,
with a world of entertainment in fact.
But Casagemas had a
natural problem of impotence
so his attraction to women was limited.
Of course, Pablo didn't
have the same problem.
They meet this girl, Germaine.
Casagemas is in love with
her and Pablo is getting her.
And, of course, Casagemas was devastated.
When we think about the
drama of the death of Casagemas,
you have to understand the circumstances.
It was in a café, Germaine
was seated with friends
and suddenly Casagemas came to her.
He had a revolver
and told her, "This is for you,"
and he shot at her.
But he missed her.
He didn't realise because
she fainted and fell on the floor.
Then he said, "This is for me,"
and he killed himself.
When you imagine that Pablo wasn't there,
it's extremely painful to imagine,
but he had to face the death of his friend
and to think that he was
maybe the reason of his death.
So the Blue Period was
fuelled with this tragic moment.
I think that for Pablo it was a struggle
to try to survive the death of his friend.
The one he came to Paris with
and the one who never came back.
"It was while thinking
that Casagemas was dead
that began me painting in blue.
I'm showing what I'm
doing to the artists here
but they think there is
too much soul and no form.
It's very funny.
You know how to talk to people like that;
but they write very bad books
and they paint idiotic pictures.
The reason why Picasso
creates the Blue Period at this time
is that he is searching
for his artistic identity.
He's looking for what
he has to say as an artist
and this very monochrome
treatment of the Blue Period
is one of the first manifestations
of Picasso's artistic identity.
What was known as the Blue Period
began in Paris at the end of 1901
but actually took place in
Barcelona over the following years
with scenes from the centre of Barcelona
where many of the people we see
in Picasso's paintings appear.
It is a city that created
like all large industrial cities
large pockets of marginalisation.
There is an emergence
of extraordinary social contrasts.
These contrasts gave
Picasso extraordinary input
from a creative point of view
which are evident at different moments
in Picasso's creativity
but especially in this Blue Period.
There are portraits of real people
friends of the artist who
are perfectly identifiable.
And there are other works
characters of low social class
many of which are recreations
of possible real characters.
Therefore we are not
talking about people that exist
but about concepts.
Picasso was not as interested
in portraying a poor woman
as portraying the concept of poverty.
Therefore, during this Blue Period
there is a real strength to his characters
but they are more symbolic.
These are very symbolist pieces.
Picasso is special in that
he reinterprets his sources
in a very personal way.
La Vie of 1903 is the masterpiece
of Picasso's Blue Period
that was painted in Barcelona
but very much thinking back
to the experience of Paris
with his friend, Carles Casagemas.
It's an allegory of both life and love
and in many ways of an artist,
like Picasso, coming-of-age.
It is very important to emphasise
that during the Blue Period
there was a great contrast
between two types of work.
The major works were devoted
to the great Picasso themes of that period
maternity, the poor, the vagabonds
but, in parallel his smaller works
contained a lot of erotic content
especially around 1903
from the bars and taverns
and in particular the brothels
which Picasso frequented
as was very common among young men.
In a way his sexual initiation
occurred in those places.
An example of Picasso's erotic work
is this painting of a
completely naked woman.
It is one of the few full-length nudes
that Picasso painted during this period.
We see a woman who surely
does not correspond to any real model
with long hair
in a posture of proposition
offering her sex, her body.
It is a work that reflects
perfectly the symbolist canons
that were prevalent in
the Blue Period of Picasso.
In 1904, Picasso moved
into a ramshackle building
that, on multiple floors, housed
numerous artists and writers.
This was known as the Bateau Lavoir
as it reminded some of the laundry
boats that were docked on the River Seine.
This was to be Picasso's
home for five years
and it was also where he would
have his first significant relationship.
Picasso's attitude to women was misogynist
but we should also
remember that all these women
were not forced into
relationships with him.
We should understand his
not very healthy relationships
he had with his wives and companions
as part of a broader culture in
which women were often mistreated.
Picasso met Fernande Olivier,
who was a married artist's model,
soon after he moved into the
Bateau Lavoir in the spring of 1904.
And she would be the
muse of some key moments
in the young Picasso's
Her real name was Amélie Lang.
They entered into a kind of relationship
which was both artistic and personal.
I think that Fernande was
a classical muse, in a way,
but also, she was open
to any kind of creativity.
And this was very important.
You can identify a period
because for each period there is a woman.
Fernande Olivier was
the official first one.
You can say, "This is the Fernande
period in his life and in his creation."
It is very interesting
how much there is a link
between Pablo and a subject.
Fernande wrote a book in
1933 about the life of Picasso
in those early years of the 20th century.
According to what she wrote,
it was a very happy life
even though they had a
lot of material difficulties.
She was remembering about
those moments of posing for him,
but also for the moment of the relationship
which was based on a lot of fun,
but also about Pablo's character.
She said that he was
very jealous, locking her up
and being after her in a very jealous way.
"The Spanish painter is
often in front of the door
to the building with his
noisy gang of Spanish artists.
I find them annoying but they
make the square more colourful.
Yesterday the sky was black
and when it broke we
had to rush for shelter.
The Spanish painter had a little kitten
in his arms which he held out to me.
I couldn't resist his magnetism
and went with him to his studio.
It was full of large unfinished canvases.
He must work so hard but what a mess!
Dear God, his paintings are astonishing.
I find something morbid in them,
which is quite disturbing,
but I also feel drawn to them.
The Spanish painter Picasso
adores me with real sincerity,
which I find touching.
He is sweet, intelligent,
very dedicated to his art,
and he drops everything for me.
His eyes plead with me.
If I fall asleep, he's beside
the bed when I wake up,
his eyes anxiously on me.
He doesn't look after himself
and I'm horrified by the
lack of personal cleanliness.
He writes me desperate letters in a French
that is highly imaginative
and quite barbaric.
He doesn't like theatre,
he found it boring,
and he didn't trust his
judgement over classical music.
What he did like was
the guitar, guitarists,
Spanish dancing and gypsy dancers.
Everything that reminded
him of his own country."
He could be very outgoing
very funny, very kind
and then he could switch character
and become more closed, more introspective.
We find a personality that could oscillate
between these two
very different characters.
In fact, this was true throughout his life.
But at the same time he
was also very professional
and when he was working
he did not allow himself to be interrupted
even during his youth.
Picasso liked to work in the evening
and late at night
sleep in the morning
and continue all afternoon and
evening until four or five in the morning
to work without anyone bothering him.
He kept this modus
operandi throughout his life.
"You already know how lonely I am,
always in the middle of a
commotion and in the midst of a crowd,
which irritates me,
but I'm forced to deal with them
because of interest and necessity.
One has to eat.
But if it were only that!
When you have to arrange
things with other people
and when you want to do something,
it's terrible to be obliged
to waste so much time,
sometimes scrounging for the last peseta
to pay for the studio or restaurant.
And believe me all those struggles
and all this trouble isn't worth it.
It's wasted time."
If one looks at the Seated Nude of 1905
that is a nude female
portrait of a seated woman
we are clearly at the junction
between the Blue and Pink Periods.
We can clearly see the creative transition
that Picasso is engaged in that year.
We see a very melancholic portrait.
In the elongation of the limbs
and in the monochrome background
we are for the best
part in the Blue Period.
And with the working in of the ochres
then the re-introduction of colour
we are already heading
towards the Pink Period.
When we refer to the Pink Period
it's a little misleading
as there is very little pink.
Indeed there is another
cycle that is much wider
which is that of the acrobats
and lasts from the end of 1904 until 1906.
I think that the transition
between the Blue Period and the Pink Period
is based on two reasons.
First, Pablo was attracted
by the world of circus.
He was visiting the Medrano Circus
and he was seeing a lot of artists
like acrobats, clowns,
harlequins and a lot of colours.
So, of course, it was a
large source of inspiration.
The second reason was because
of art dealers and collectors;
Gertrude Stein, of course,
and Ambroise Vollard.
They were interested in the
new Picasso, so after the poor life,
it was the beginning of a new,
comfortable life for Pablo and Fernande.
Especially because Ambroise Vollard
bought something like 20 paintings
so all this was driving
him to a Pink Period.
A period of happiness.
It is important to say that there
was, let's say, a daily life reason
and an artistic reason.
The key painting of the Pink Period
is Family of Saltimbanques of 1905,
that represents Picasso's
love for the circus,
which he used to attend in Paris,
as well as his intimate
life of that period,
by incorporating references
to his lover Fernande Olivier
as well as his great friend
the poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
Family of Saltimbanques is very important
because we see Picasso
portraying himself as Harlequin,
an apt alter ego for Picasso
because he is a figure of transformation
and someone who, out of rags,
managed to create a
beautiful costume for himself.
There is always something
that connects one phase to the next.
There are strong
connections in all his work.
He was someone who worked tirelessly
and who considered that what
he had to say was in the artworks.
Picasso was always
pondering the same questions.
What is painting?
What am I doing as a painter?
He questions the role of the model.
One's place in the world.
He is an artist that reflects
what is happening at the time.
And I think it's the mark of great artists
that they produce works that
are both very rich and very open.
Then in the subject matter
he struggles and seeks
to extract substance.
He searches for the essence of things.
In doing so he forces
the viewer to be active too
forcing them to question themselves
to decipher and also to put a
part of themselves in what they see.
But he also draws on an extensive
knowledge of artistic language
and the inter-connection
of all the disciplines.
Don't forget that Picasso
is certainly a great painter
but he is also a major sculptor.
We see the pictorial tradition
the artistic tradition reflected
in many of these works.
Picasso is constantly inspired by
the old masters he saw
in Madrid, at the Prado
but now in Paris, at the Louvre
and the Luxembourg Gallery
in all the galleries of the Rue Laffitte
he's now seeing the
work of his contemporaries.
He is someone who has an eye
that captures absolutely everything.
To me my grandfather, when in Paris,
was not looking at the past.
Even if he saw Renoir or Manet,
this was part of history.
So it wasn't very important
to speak about the past,
but to exchange with
artists about the future.
He was in the process to make
sure that he was purely original.
In the summer of 1906
Picasso went to Spain to see his family
and then continued his journey
with Fernande Olivier, his girlfriend
Gósol is a very small village
in the Catalan Pyrenees
that is really lost in
the middle of nowhere.
You had to get there by mule.
It was truly an expedition.
It is a village stuck in the past.
It had no electricity, no running water.
It's in the middle of splendid nature
and at the same time very isolated.
It's a landscape of very ochre colours
very dry, very arid
a bit wild.
We are in the process of a homecoming
which is what Picasso is
looking for at that moment.
He had seen the Ingres retrospective
at the Salon d'Automne of 1905
and he reworked these themes
of hair brushing, the harem, the classics.
We can feel a Picasso searching for
the most effective subjects
and places for his work.
We now see a simplification of his work
a simplification of forms
a geometrisation of forms.
His faces gradually become
rigid and turn into full ovals.
We also feel this influence of sculpture.
It will revolutionise the language of form.
In Gósol Picasso
abandons literary subjects.
He is no longer interested
in what he represents.
He is interested in how he represents it.
He is interested in the
representation of the body
but it doesn't matter
if it's a circus artist
or a jester or an acrobat.
The subject disappears.
We see the emergence in his work
of a true modernity of language.
After ten weeks, he and
Fernande headed back to Paris.
It is tempting to over-simplify the
development of an artist's career
but there is no doubt that
those ten weeks spent in Gósol
had been transformative.
For Picasso now began preparations
for one of the most
significant works of his youth.
Indeed one of the most
significant works of his life:
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
Pablo visited the Museum of
Mankind at Trocadéro in Paris.
He was a bit lost in this
museum, in the dusty rooms
where there were thousands
of objects from the Colonies,
especially from Africa.
It is how he discovered the masks.
"A smell of mould and
neglect caught me by the throat.
But I forced myself to stay,
to examine these masks,
all these objects that people had created
with a sacred, magical purpose,
to serve as intermediaries
between them and the unknown.
And then I understood
what painting really meant.
It's not an aesthetic process;
it's a form of magic
that interposes itself between
us and the hostile universe,
a means of seizing power
by imposing a form on our
terrors as well as on our desires.
The day I understood
that, I had found my path."
He was impressed because
he was trying to understand
what was the process
because it was frightening.
At the same time, it was
like a kind of protection.
He had seen a mask at Gertrude Stein's home
and remembered that he was
discussing that with Matisse.
And where the other artists were
neglecting this type of civilisation,
he was considering that his
present was a result of the past.
From that moment, he started to observe
what was the simplified
representation of the humankind.
At the same time, he was also trying
to understand how it was possible
to go through the reality of, let's say,
a traditional representation of the face
with the potentiality of
representing faces and profiles.
So it was a kind of exploration in
this period that we call Primitivism.
Primitivism has very much to do with
the encounter with non-Western art.
It includes pre-Classical sculpture,
as well as so-called 'tribal' arts.
All of these examples provided artists
with a different approach to representation
from the one they had learned
through academic training.
"Picasso continued to be
driven by great ambition,
despite the fact that he
was reluctant to exhibit
and never took part in
group exhibitions at that time.
He wanted to create a new kind of art,
and although with his abilities
he could have enjoyed great
success as a traditional artist,
he wanted to be an innovator."
"Picasso inevitably presented us
with an appearance of the world
which did not conform to the way
in which we had learned to see it.
For the first time in Picasso's work
the expression of the faces is
neither tragic nor passionate.
These are masks almost
entirely free from humanity."
André Salmon, critic.
At this moment in Picasso's career
he is really out to do nothing less
than reinvent the history
of Western painting
in his own aggressively confrontational,
We know he put a lot of
time into planning this work.
We can just see from the size of it
that it is of tremendous ambition
and I think he was intent
on making people stand back
and say I've never seen
a painting like this before.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon started
as a narrative scene set in a brothel,
of two men, a sailor and a medical student,
surrounded by five prostitutes.
In time it became a very iconic
image of five female nudes.
Choosing a canvas of such a size
is significant for an artist at this time.
What he chooses to
represent is a brothel scene.
And it's a brothel scene
that is very confrontational.
The composition is very interesting
since when we look at his studies
we see that Picasso originally planned
to include two male characters.
One was a sailor, a
regular customer of brothels
and the other was a medical student
arriving with a skull.
So it's this omission of
the two male characters
that puts the viewer in
the position of voyeur.
That's very important
since we are now complicit
with what is happening.
One of the characters opens a curtain
and we are caught in the
scene inside the brothel
which was also something
violent at that time.
This is a picture with a
particular erotic charge
that certainly has to do with
the putative brothel scenario.
One of the things I always
notice when I look at this work
is the way that each one of
those figures locks eyes with us.
It's one of the most aggressive
pictures in relation to the viewer's gaze.
Traditionally we would be
staring at objects in a painting;
here these powerful female
figures are staring back out at us.
The title of this painting
is extremely confusing
because first we speak about demoiselles
when they are prostitutes,
and we say Avignon which is a
little town in the south of France.
But you have to refer to the
Carrer d'Avinyó in Barcelona
which was the street
of the brothels and bars.
The very origin
of the title of the work
and the iconography
are from the visits that Picasso
made to brothels in Barcelona.
In a way, it's an iconography
made in France but it takes as reference
the moments and memories of his youth
of the young Picasso
entering such brothels.
The other fact is that Pablo was
not giving titles to his artworks.
It would have been very difficult for Pablo
to give a title for each painting
when you think that he has made
more than 8,000, for example.
But for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon,
the real title should be The
Prostitutes of the Carrer d'Avinyó
which is not very
attractive for a painting.
In fact, the titles were given by
art dealers or people after that.
Then we have the style
which has really shaken things up.
We have strong geometric influences
with liberties taken
in relation to the
representation of the model.
We often talk about
this 'quarter-of-brie' nose
because Picasso has turned the
profile of the nose on to the face.
We see a multiplication of points of view
and it doesn't matter if
the face is a front view
we can still put the nose in profile.
So we have this violence, something new.
Many will question it
be surprised by it
and even reject it.
When he showed Les
Demoiselles d'Avignon to his friends
although they were poets,
avant-gardists and open-minded
the reactions were terrible.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
is a painting that is significant
because of its incorporation
of so-called 'primitive' traditions
into a very classical format.
The change within it was very much prompted
by the reference to
non-Western artistic sources.
First of all, the Iberian
sculpture from Andalucía,
Cerro de los Santos,
and then the African masks
and examples from the modern
primitivist tradition of Gauguin
that Picasso had recently
come to consider in his work.
So Picasso superimposed faces
that were inspired not
only by non-Western art,
but also references to
the art of Paul Gauguin
or Egyptian sculpture
onto the bodies of women that
are posing as classical Venuses.
So this coming together of
Primitivism and Classicism
makes Les Demoiselles d'Avignon
a turning point in the history
of Western art as a whole.
What Picasso succeeds in doing
in the 14 years up to 1907
is indeed a revolution.
He changes the way we see reality.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is the
beginning of what will become cubism.
This way of representing the world
from several points of
view at the same time.
This is a revolution because
since the Renaissance
since the use of perspective
the world has been represented
from a single point of view
planes using depth of field
to present reality
as we perceive it
in the most faithful way possible.
Now we have this extra
dimension to the painting
which is its need to be recomposed
in the imagination of the viewer.
In cubism the viewer needs
to intellectually recompose
the complexity of a known object
which if we consider it as a
can't be reflected
exactly on a flat surface.
And that's truly a revolution.
It's very interesting that,
in the space of ten years,
attitudes to the whole
issue of Primitivism in art
and also to Les Demoiselles
changed quite radically.
When Picasso first showed
Les Demoiselles to his friends
they reacted very strongly
and very negatively,
considering it a complete failure.
André Derain even said
that one day they will find
Picasso hanging behind the painting.
Then by 1916, despite the war,
Les Demoiselles had a huge
success in a very fashionable art gallery,
where it was displayed by
the French designer Paul Poiret.
So, we can say that in these ten years
there was an inclusion of avant-garde art
that allowed for Primitivism
and Les Demoiselles
to become fashionable commodities.
It's true, it was not shown
publicly until July 1916,
but it was seen in Picasso's studio
which many, many people passed through.
The legend is that everybody
was shocked and appalled,
but I think when you really begin to look
at the literature and the commentary
that the responses were more mixed.
I think what is, it seems to me,
very true is that this was a picture
that surprised and shocked and upset.
But that isn't necessarily
a pejorative thing;
that's a great thing.
It's a cause for argument
and debate and dissent.
So there's the public showing,
there's the private impact,
there are the artists' studio conversations
and then in the 1920s
one of the young poets
who was a foundational figure
for the surrealist artist,
André Breton, saw this picture
and ended up convincing its first
buyer to purchase it, Jacques Doucet
and Breton then for a whole
generation of artists in the '20s and '30s
he published the
picture, he wrote about it,
he saw it as a watershed
as the picture that took art
beyond painting for the first time.
And then in the '30s it comes to New York
and it is acquired by the
Museum of Modern Art
and it's included in the first
big exhibition MoMA did in 1939
of Picasso's work
and I imagine it's been
on our walls ever since.
One thing I always like to ask
people to do in front of any work of art
and I suppose this one in particular
is to look at it for 30 seconds in silence
and think about what they notice.
I think with this one,
for people who might say,
"Oh, I would rather look at a
Titian or an Ingres or a Delacroix",
then the question I would pose to them
is to hold those pictures
that you love in mind
and look at this one and think,
"Why would Picasso want
to do something so different?
And how is it making me feel?
And what is it that is in
fact different about this?
Why would a painter want to make
something that seems so wilfully ugly,
or grotesque, or discomforting,
And I think the more that you do that
the more that this picture
begins to get back to you.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is said to be
the origin of modern art.
It is a confusing consideration
because to me it is
because of its size, of course,
and the innovation of creation.
On the other side, it is
probably a question of marketing
because of the creation of the
Museum of Modern Art in New York
at the beginning of the '30s.
So probably it is not the
first artwork of modern art,
but it is probably the one
which is symbolising at its most.
This is why it is a treasure,
not only for the museum
itself, but for the 20th century.
Picasso is an artist of reference.
Even today so many years after his death
he remains a reference not
only for scholars but for artists.
A great artist, the first
who was able to manipulate
all elements of the media within his reach
who throughout his artistic life
maintained the highest level of output.
He is one of the greatest
references for 20th-century art
and his ability to communicate
made him an absolutely unparalleled artist
known worldwide today.
There are very few artists
whose name or signature
is known as widely as Pablo Picasso.
There is one thing that is very important.
Picasso never tired of experimenting.
He was a man somewhat
dissatisfied with his work
thus always trying to advance
and experiment in new areas.
I think he was always
frustrated with himself.
That's why there's such
an enormous quantity
of ceramics, engravings,
drawings, oil paintings.
I personally calculate about 50,000 works.
It's a whole world, a whole universe
that he has bequeathed to us,
a way to understand the 20th century.
After all, Picasso is the summation
of all that is the 20th century.