by Marlena Donohue
"Le Sommeil," o/c, 51 1/4 x 38 1/4", 1932. Photo: Ellen Page Wilson.
"Dog," charcoal and oil on canvas,
|(PaceWildenstein, Beverly Hills) Pablo Picasso has been mythologized and villified, is the subject of hundreds of thousands of articles, books and exhibits. His work and person have left little ground untilled. Even setting aside the hyperbole and false tales that have emanated from disgruntled former lovers, political hacks, and the general desire to sell art, books or movie tickets, the Great Artist was certainly not a Nice Guy. But adding to existing pulp on this artist also feedsthe pathetic fallacy that if you are brilliant enough you are therefore exempt from the standards of decency that usually direct the rest of us.
Now we are presented with a handsome show of Picasso's paintings, culled from private loans and the artist's estate, that remind us that, whatever else can and has been said or invented about him, Picasso was a genius who changed the course of art's history. His wielding of the brush remains remarkable, and try as one might to hate him, and thus dismiss him, in the face of the work he always earns forgiveness.
Further, how often do we get to view a selection of mature Picasso canvases in any concentration here (oh, I'm forgetting, now that the Getty Center has opened no one dares think of us Angelenos as cultural bumpkins no mo')? These are not second rate examples gathered just to get the Master up on the walls, but apt representatives of early, middle and late styles.
Certain seminal works that mark breakthrough transitions in the artist's formal or expressive vision are included. One of the best is the disjointedly beautiful Le Sommeil , featuring a sprawling, nude Marie-Terese Walter. The always recognizable wisp of her very blond hair, the simple undulating shapes of rich color arching into a full, young body are quite fine.
It's been suggested that no matter who took their rotating, woebegotten turn as the unfortunate object of Picasso's romantic interests, Marie-Terese remained his most significant emotional, sexual and creative muse. This is confirmed by some of the works in this show.
Another truly exceptional portrait of Marie-Terese captures her again, this time with yellow hair and beret framing a fused front and profile, and tender eyes whose pupils lap out like seductive, compliant tongues. The portrait was done in 1937, the very same year that Picasso spent most of his time flitting between Marie-Terese and Dora Maar, emotionally torturing both women equally.
By the time of Homme Assis (Seated Man) , among the latest works in the show, Picasso's colors have turned dark and loose. The con- tours and emotional pallor of the over four-foot canvas are taut and agonized. Painted at the age of ninety, Picasso died in bed of heart failure at Notre Dame de Vie, Nice, two years later. Some years later the subject of so many of the lush, erotic and brilliant works you'll see here, Marie-Terese Walter hanged herself in a garage.
This exhibition also launches the publication of Pages de Garde (End Papers), a collection of poems by Bernard Ruiz Picasso, the artist's grandson. A first copy of the edition will be on view in the second floor gallery.