Picasso's character and talent

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Picasso's character and talent

From Melville Holmes

Published before 2005


Marie,

I don’t know if there is much further we can go in talking about Picasso because what I saw as this pure distortion did not come across as a good thing at all and I held back in describing my experiences in his museum in Antibes. For instance, when I stepped into his former studio there (it was weird because I had been just peering through the window and the guard virtually propelled me inside) I felt an overwhelming sense of suffocation, as it were spiritually, as to say that what this man had been after and what I was after and stood for were utterly contradictory. Similar to my impression of pure mockery (for its own sake) was that concerning his Joie de Vivre there, that it represented and iconized (if you will) a false joy of life, coming from a profound lawlessness (I call it - perhaps it is an essence of bohemianism), one that, if one lives it out (as hippies used to try to do) ends up unreal, unworkable, and eventually destructive. All of this is inward and intuitive for me, but it is a very profound antipathy, so there you are. There were similar experiences while visiting the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence. I had to go to these places because our hosts insisted we needed to see these places. They were international dealers in primitive art and loved modernism.

I think I can say that I see Picasso’s life and art as being about the same thing, a sheer casting off of restraints, of mores, of norms for the sake of doing so, and affront to the public for no good reason. This is fundamental to the avant-garde in general, a despising of “bourgeois taste” (read ordinary decent people) so that if regular people think something is good and sweet and lovely we’ll trample it and serve it up twisted. But I’d better stop ...

I would not put Picasso in the class of Beethoven because he produced works that elevate the sensibilities and give joy of heart even to those bourgeois people despised by the avant-garde. I understand your point and agree that they each had tremendous creative energy but that is about as far as I would go, since one is positive to me and the other remains a minus. I wonder if anyone who has read up on Beethoven’s life can better describe his public or critical acceptance better than I. I do recall the anecdote that when he conducted the first performance of his 9th symphony, when he was deaf, he had to be physically turned around to see the overwhelming applause.

I am not associated with ARC though I enjoyed your response to the exhibition. There are only two or three images that I really felt drawn to admire (without seeing any painting). I think they really got the Best in Show right - Hinds Feet. It is just lovely (though perhaps a little conspicuously Sargentesque), though for me it might have been touch and go with the Lute Player by Paul De Lorenzo, which seems truly timeless and to capture a great deal of refined emotion, the delight of the player in the music, which speaks also of the musician’s skill so that he no longer is thinking about technique but the music itself - very beautiful and life affirming. The other is a little girl by Tim Tyler, Hannah I believe, which had to be pointed out to me by a friend but when I enlarged it the piece made me happy. Here is a timeless little girl.

Best regards,

Melville Holmes