Picasso is worth looking at, again and again, though the world seems divided on that thought. Oh, his brush work is simplistic compared to Rembrandt. His use of color can’t compare with the mastery of a Cezanne still life, a Klimt or Matisse. Though precocious early with art skills he can’t compare with Bouguereau for beautiful rendering. And as for gritty anguish, Scheille or Van Gogh give him a serious run for his money.
Labels are clever but, at least in the arts, they do us a disservice. All too often we stop really looking once we have labelled, catalogued and shelved an artist. Picasso is a cubist. Done, boxed and packed neatly away.
In truth in Picasso’s career pure cubism was a sideline….or maybe a door to walk through to get to somewhere else.
Take one of his oft repeated subjects, the simple seated woman. Picasso is first and foremost a storyteller. When artists tell stories we often resort to props, drama of theatrical poses, color as mood and setting the scene, flashy brushstrokes to create energy.
Here, with his seated women, Picasso is speaking of a full world of things from simple pleasure of an afternoon, to visions of love, erotic dreams, great luminous joy and playfulness reminding us that not all art need be dark…and bitter anguish…all with a simple Seated Woman.
The brilliance is that he is telling us the stories of these women by his use of form…not with props or dramatic gestures or dredged symbolism. He creates the endless new forms of a simple seated woman. Some are joyous, others so sad, or dreaming rich eroticism, and others simply enjoy a quiet day. And yet others, painted during the war, are often interpreted to show Picasso as a misogynist, but I think these speak more to the anguish during the bitter days of war in Paris.
These are not merely labelled, neat and tidy cubist experiments. He is speaking with shapes and forms. Telling stories with the actual creation of new arm, leg and head forms. Brilliance, well worth looking for.
That and the sheer playful creativity if it all. Picasso is not to be shelved. He is one of our great realistic storytellers.