As famous artists go, they don’t get much more famous than Picasso. Famous and prolific. Picasso 1932 Love Fame Tragedy, the new exhibition at Tate Modern is dedicated to his output in just one year it is stuffed to the gunnels with top notch work, no sketches found at the bottom of a drawer here.
You know how big zero birthdays are. You approach them with trepidation. How can I be that old? You probably have a big celebration. Then suddenly you are 21, 31, 41, 51 and heading for next big zero thinking about what you want to keep and what you want to change. That’s how 1932 was for Picasso. He turned 51. He was famous. He was married with a child. He had a lovely Parisian home and had just bought a chateau, Boisgeloup, as a country retreat. He was respectable. But, he also had a young mistress, Marie-Therésè Walter who was less than half his age. He didn’t want to settle down and be respectable. He painted Marie-Therésè over and over again. We see her distinctive shock of blond hair and prominent nose peering out at us from almost every wall. Picasso dubbed 1932 as the ‘Year of Wonders’.
WHY LOVE FAME TRAGEDY?
Love, well because of Marie-Therésè. He had met her in Paris five years earlier when she was 17. His glittering marriage to the ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova was getting stale and the young Marie-Therésè provided the distraction and inspiration that he needed. As you go round the exhibition every work has the date on which it was painted, drawn or sculpted. There are so many of them and they are mostly so erotic, that you have to wonder if did anything but paint and have sex.
Fame, well Picasso was famous. So famous that Parisian gallery put on a retrospective exhibition of his work. This was a rare accolade for a living artist in 1932. One room in Picasso 1932 Love Fame Tragedy is devoted to reassembling some of the works that show. The wall of family paintings show just how much Picasso changed is style over the years.
Tragedy, toward the end of 1932 Marie-Therésè fell very ill after swimming in the polluted Marne river. Her illness prompted Picasso to paint a series of paintings that showed a woman drowning but then being rescued. These images then morphed into a woman drowning and then being raped. It is these images of tragedy, redemption and violence that both the year and the exhibition end.
PICASSO 1932 LOVE FAME TRAGEDY HIGHLIGHTS
One of my early art pilgrimages was to Colmar to see the Isenheim Altarpiece. Turns out that Picasso was a fan of the altarpiece too. He did more than gawp at Matthais Grunewald’s masterpiece and then head out for plate of Alscation Charcuterie. He took inspiration from the graphic suffering of Christ and embarked on a series of pen and ink drawings. For me the sequence of drawings on display show how he played images and effects before settling on a final work.
Whilst not being inspired by Marie-Therésè Picasso took time to look at the chickens that surrounded Boisgeloup, I rather liked this bronze cockerel.
If I could take one work home with me? It would be this image of Marie-Therésè sleeping called Le Repos it was painted on Tuesday 17 May 1932 at Boiseloup.
8 March 2018 – 9 SEPTEMBER 2018
OPEN:Sunday – Thursday 10am – 6pm Friday-Saturday 10am-10pm
ADMISSION: Adult £22 concessions are available
ADDRESS: Bankside, London, SE1 9TG
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Southwark Tube 600 metres, Blackfrairs Train station 300 metres
Members go free, to read my London Museum Membership post to find out more.
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