I’ve been reading some of the writings of Patrick Heron, an artist who suffered somewhat from his extreme eloquence as a writer. He certainly has me beat, and I know what he was up against, because his writing didn’t help the reception of his work. Yet like me everything he had to say came from experience, not a theoretical bone in his body. I’m particularly struck by a piece on the late work of Picasso, the last ten years. This was the art that inspired me the most at the very beginning; I loved it, and really did not agree with the standard American take, which was that it was shamefully bad. There was a flurry of interest in the wake of “bad” painting and the neo-expressionism of the 80s, but there really is no connection between late Picasso and anything that’s happened since De Kooning’s hilarious portrait of Fiorello LaGuardia. There is an affinity there for sure. Anyway, Heron’s article is so compelling I would have to quote pages. He takes me back to the days when I thought a musketeer by Picasso was the best painting ever, and makes the
necessary point that reproductions are just not adequate. When I eventually saw one in person it was in fact a big disappointment, but I kept faith, despite the evidence, and many years later was very happy to see some very good ones. One recently shown in Toronto was much much better than I ever thought from the photograph, attached below. It’s quality can be felt, but I don’t feel a need to explain it, not least because Heron has already done a good enough job. Among other things he shows me the value of Picasso’s extreme abbreviation of form, which I never really understood. And for an abstractionist flags the most important thing—his beautiful clear, strong, vivid, indestructible sense of reality.