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Picasso’s ‘year of wonders’


Picasso’s
The Dream, 1932 © Succession Picasso/
DACS London, 2018
Picasso’s The Dream, 1932 © Succession Picasso/ DACS London, 2018

by AMIT ROY

LONDON SHOW FEATURES EXCEPTIONAL ART

IT IS important for south Asians generally to go and see the Picasso exhibition at Tate Modern for a number of reasons.

For a start, Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy is probably the best show in London at the moment.

Even those new to his work will appreciate there is something exceptional about such paintings as The Dream, Girl Before a Mirror, Woman on the Beach and The Mirror, as well as his black and white ink drawings of The Crucifixion.

But going to Tate Modern is important for another reason. British Asians should be careful not to absorb the hate for Europe which drives so much of today’s Brexit discourse. In a sense, Pablo Picasso was an immigrant – a Spaniard who chose to live his life in France. He just did not want to be in fascist Spain.

Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, and Lau­rent L Bon, president, Musée national Picasso-Paris, point out: “Just as Picasso was a true European, so this exhibition is the result of a strong and fruitful col­laboration between Tate Modern London and Musée national Picasso-Paris, one of the key lenders.”

Cecil Beaton’s photograph of Pablo Picasso ©The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s

On display are more than “100 outstanding paint­ings, sculptures and works on paper”, a small fraction of his prolific output in a single year. This is why 1932 is called his “year of wonders”.

As the most famous artist in France and probably the world, Picasso was photographed by Cecil Bea­ton, himself a celebrity, that same year.

Picasso, who had turned 50, was leading a double life. His marriage to Olga Khokhlova, a former Rus­sian ballerina, had turned sour. She continued to live in Paris with their son, Paula, who was now 11.

Picasso’s Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, 1918, Musee National Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS London, 2018

But Picasso had bought a chateau with spacious rooms in a village called Boisgeloup, some 63 km from the capital. Here he installed his mistress, Ma­rie-Thérèse Walter, 28 years his junior and his muse. The “sexually charged new paintings unveiled for the first time the presence of the secret woman in his life”. He painted her endlessly and when his works were shown in a major retrospective in 1932, it be­came obvious that the muse depicted “was not his wife”, as the exhibition’s curator, Achim Borchardt- Hume, put it delicately. He has worked with co-cura­tor Nancy Ireson on this exhibition.

“Picasso famously described painting as ‘just an­other form of keeping a diary’,” the curator said. “This exhibition invites you to get close to the artist, to his ways of thinking and working, and to the tribulations of his personal life at a pivotal moment in his career.”

The displays are set out by month, starting at Christmas 1931 and ending in December 1932. Pi­casso’s paintings towards the end of the year are influenced by the darkening mood in Europe when fascism in Spain and Hitler in Germany were on the rise. Seven years later, Europe would be plunged into the Second World War.

Earlier this month, French president Emmanuel Macron was in India. Perhaps along with selling nuclear power and Rafale fighter aircraft to India, he could consider teaming up with Tate Modern to send this Picasso exhibition on a tour of the coun­try. Londoners are very lucky they have to catch only the Tube to Southwark.

  • Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy runs at Tate Modern until September 9, 2018.