I am currently reading Life with Picasso by Françoise Gilot and am finding it quite enjoyable.
I had thought that it might be a bit dry or worse a bit voyeuristic, but it is in fact a dispassionate and well presented insight into Ms Gilot’s time with the painter. (So far.)
Before I go into what made me stop and write this, a brief review of my life in art.
There is none. The closest I come to having a relationship with art is the old chestnut: “I know what I like.” Other than that, my general experience with the true biggies of the international art world is some twenty years old and comes from my OE where we dutifully traipsed around nearly all the major art galleries in Europe. I really do mean nearly all of them. The standard fare of the Louvre, Prado and National Gallery down to those dedicated to individual artists, like Chagall and even Picasso himself.
Basically what I’m saying is…”I didn’t do Art History at uni so you will need to excuse me if the following is something you consider a simpleton should know.”
Right. Here is what provoked me into writing today.
Part of a conversation between Pablo and Françoise about his philosophy and the choices he makes regarding his creation of art contained the following comment by Picasso:
Someone, at least, who might be able to get painting back on the rails again.
Françoise comes back with this:
Where had it gone off, I asked him.
Then comes the insight that made me stop and actually think about art history.
‘That’s a long story,’ he said, ‘but you’re a good listener, so I’ll tell you. You have to go all the way back to the Greeks and the Egyptians. Today we are in the unfortunate position of having no order or canon whereby all artistic production is submitted to rules. They – the Greeks, Romans, the Egyptians – did. Their canon was inescapable because beauty, so called, was, by definition, contained in those rules. But as soon as art lost all link with tradition, and the kind of liberation that came in with Impressionism permitted every painter to do what he wanted to do, painting was finished. When they decided it was the painter’s sensations and emotions that mattered, and every man could re-create painting as he understood it from any basis whatever, then there was no more painting; there were only individuals. Sculpture died the same death.
I found this quite an eye-opener. Being a complete simpleton in matters of art I hadn’t really come to the conscious realisation that the Impressionists provide a boundary between the very traditional, mostly realistic painters and the modernists of Cubism, Surrealism and latterly Pop Art.
It is interesting that in the 1940s Picasso considered there to be no more painting and that there hadn’t really been any from before his youth.
Little did I know, before today, that my love of Monet meant I was supporting the downfall of painting. According to Picasso, anyway.
Once again it proves that there is so much to know and consider in life, that sometimes we barely scratch the surface of understanding. It’s also a reminder that small comments like these – a single paragraph – can provide a moment of awakening to the obvious and spark an interest in finding out more.
Does anyone else have these sorts of moments?
The “ah-ha”, that’s so obvious, why didn’t I see it before moment.
Oh, and if there are any art historian types reading this, can you please leave a comment with recommendations for “potted history” type books that would be a good starting point for me.
On another note: the Oh Waily blog went silent this past week, not through lack of things to say but the means to say it. Miss Oh brought home a lovely cough/cold combination from daycare just before last weekend and kindly shared it with the rest of the family. Master Oh is the only one to have remained fairly immune to the whole thing. Personally I came a hair breadth away from losing my voice, which some might say is a blessing for those around me.
We are still not quite out of the woods yet, but at least I don’t feel completely flattened now and I may even manage to create a post or two this week. We’ll just have to wait and see.