Late Picasso

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

Pablo Picasso, Musketeer with cupid 1969

Pablo Picasso, Musketeer with cupid 1969, my favorite painting back in the day

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.

Pablo Picasso, woman with a pillow 1969

Pablo Picasso, woman with a pillow 1969, the piece I found so striking in Toronto. It probably helps that it’s big—maybe six or seven feet high.

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One Response to Late Picasso

  1. Martin Mugar (@mugar49) says:

    I once found myself perusing a book of late Picasso paintings and had the thought that he made possible stylistically the late work of Guston. The marks are coming out of the same place psychologically: anger, frustration and certain “je m’en fous” attitude where there is no need to please. Not that Picasso ever tried to please but he pushes his freedom from all that to a very liberating level. Of course for Guston the leap from Abstract Impressionism to his late work was rather dramatic. Jed Perl is also a fan of PIcasso’s late work. In the preface to the reprint of “Paris Without End” he stated that some people saw this work as kitsch in the 80’s but by the time of a big show of that work in Chicago in 2009 the consensus was universally favorable.

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