Picasso et ses maîtres

Dec 15, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · 2 Comments ·
Filed under: Arts 

This week end, my mother came for a two days visit to Paris and, despite the legendary wait and the bitter cold, we went to see Picasso et les maîtres (Picasso and his masters), the exhibiton at the Grand Palais in Paris. picasso_and_the_masters My prior knowledge of Picasso came from two exhibitions I attended before:

  1. the Picasso museum in Paris 5th arrondissement where the visitor  gets a chance at seeing a lot of paintings from the blue period, the beginning of the cubism, several portraits of Dora Mar and a number of works (drawings or paintings) coming from Picasso’s work on Guernica. At least, these are the works I clerly remember seeing there. The visit presents the work in chronological order and, right from the beginning, we study the paintings in order to determine how close Picasso is to entering his next period. The references are always to his own work since he is opening a new path. There seems to be no connection between what he is doing, what his contemporaries are doing and what the previous masters done before.
  2. the Cézanne – Picasso exhibition which shows several pieces that bring out the light on the ressemblaces between the two painters I tought were opposed. Picasso and Cezanne share a mutual admiration for one another and actually, inspired each other. Several Picasso paintings are answers to some of Paul Cezanne paintings. In that second exhibition, Picasso appears less isolated since his work is compared to the one of Cezanne. Indeed, that exhibition reveals that at least part of his inspirations came from his contemporaries and that, after all, he was not reinvented painting all by himself. It also, by making him the one that followed Paul Cézanne’s path, gave him a place in the History of Painting. He now had a place in the chain that connects Renoir to Pollock.

El Greco - Portrait

Pablo Picasso - Portrait inspired by El Greco

What this recent exhibition revealed (at least to me) is that Picasso was not only inspired by his contemporaries but also the most academic of trainings. He studied the masters, before moving on to create his own style, and by doing so, reinventing painting for the 20th century. He accepted this as his mission. Like most artists, he felt he belonged to a tradition and to an History. He knew he would have to create his own style to move painting forward and to write his own chapter. His inspirations came from every an incredibly wide range of artists: Rembamt, El Greco, Velasquez and Delacroix, Ingres, Matisse, Cezanne, Renoir and Gaughin, le Douannier Rousseau among many others. Picasso had an incredible style, that makes him stand out and easy to recognize but he also has an incredible capacity to learn from everything, and imitates most anything. What a versatility is displayed a h the exhibition: not only did Picasso go through several periods (styles) but he could paint any subject or genres. To illustrate the exhibition, here are Velasquez Menines (which is actually one of the paintings missing at the show) followed by two of the paintings it inspired Picasso. What is fascinating is how Picasso graps the subject and starts taking away from it, changing the lines and colors but still, you can still recognize the original and yet, it’s evidently a new work of art on its own. Sometimes, this proces could take him months and a lot of paintings to arrive to the destination of this inspirational journey.

Velasquez - Les Menines (1656)

Velasquez - Les Menines (1656)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

If you are in town and care for paintings, dont miss this incredible gathering of masterpieces. Just an adivce, the shows closes at 10pm, plan to get there at 8pm, the biggest part of the crowd is gone by then…

And now, from the filmmakers perspective, we learn two things from what Picasso achieved:

  1. It is necessary for people wanting to make movies to watch movies and to learn from the masters. There are technics and ideas to be taken from every movies out there, no matter their genre or time period. That is something we strongly believe in and, if nothing else, we make sure to watch several movies a week with attention. Well, that’s not difficult. We just love it.
  2. Picasso is the avant-garde figure of the 20th century. He is the inventor of cubism and therefore known for his opposition to a classical, academical, pictural representation. But, as any avant garde artist, he is in the first place a master of academism.

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2 Responses to “Picasso et ses maîtres”
  1. Fearless says:

    The exhibition in Paris is one of the best I have ever visited. That said I felt that the commentary did not really dig deep into Picasso’s motivations and personality.

    At times his use of the Masters as inspiration comes across as a sort of petulant boredom whilst at others an aggressive anarchism.

    Did anyone else get the impression that the organisers paid too much emphasis to Picasso the technical artist and not enough to the complexities of this towering genius. Having assembled such a superb array with a powerful linking theme is seems to me that the organisers missed a chance to let us enter his mind.


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