Picasso once said “Give me a museum and I will fill it.” It seems he was absolutely right. In Paris, the Hotel Salé AKA the Picasso Museum in the historic Marais district, is pulling in crowds after undergoing a complete renovation. Bob Lyons investigates…
Picasso Museum Paris
I joined the back of a long queue under chilly drizzle in the courtyard where 40 minutes was spent shuffling along waiting to get in. It was a cold, dull and miserable day in Paris but the interest in Picasso’s work was as strong as it has always been. The occupants of the line were eager and very cosmopolitan. Not one person left to find a more comfortable corner in the city to seek some respite from the weather.
Pablo Picasso enjoyed a long life. He died at the age of 91 in 1973 and declared that uninterrupted work meant an uninterrupted life. Although born in Malaga in Spain he spent most of his life in France and very early on acquired a taste and competence for radical art. His personal style of contemporary painting and sculpture has been as enduring as work produced by the great traditional artists over many centuries.
Picasso had a corkscrew mind and was a lateral thinker. He also had a corkscrew and lateral name which represented a variety of relatives and Saints. In full it was Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedious Cipriano de la Santiisima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Theoretical physicists have often compared his work to the way they see the universe after they have applied their mathematical equations to it. A distortion of what we perceive yet somehow closer to the truth.
A visit to the Picasso museum at the Hotel Salé makes for a splendid experience of art. It contains not only several major works by Picasso but examples from many other great artists too. These include pieces from Modigliani, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Degas and Rousseau. These were the painters that had such a great influence on Picasso’s work and many of the artworks are from his own personal collection. Many of these artists were contemporaries of Picasso, living and creating in a celebrated period of modern, twentieth century, thought provoking art. Picasso’s own work is displayed on the garden floor, the first floor and in the attic of the Hotel Salé and many pieces were donated to the French state by his heirs in lieu of death duties.
At the age of 16, Picasso became a student of art at the Royal Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. He did not succumb to conventional teaching methods. He wrote to a friend, “They just go on and on about the same old stuff: Velazquez for painting, Michelangelo for sculpture”. He skipped classes and wandered off into the streets to paint all that he observed. Gypsies, beggars and prostitutes and all of the real life around them became his subjects. He began to develop his particular flare for the obscure distortion of all that he saw.
Picasso’s style evolved through a number of creative periods; he had a flexible artistic approach and was readily able to revert from one form to the other after they had developed. After the Second World War, he became an international celebrity and the world’s most famous living artist.
During his so-called ‘Blue Period’, Picasso painted scenes of isolation, anguish and poverty. His paintings were in shades of blue and green. Famous works from this period include the ‘Blue Nude’, ‘La Vie’ and the ‘Old Guitarist’. They were all completed by the end of 1903.
Picasso developed a style of Cubism. During this period, the artist disassembled objects and people into their component parts in his mind. The geometric elements were then arranged into a form of collage. It was as though the natural forces of physics were causing destruction followed by recreation. It shocked, appalled and yet fascinated the art world
Picasso also went through a long period of Surrealism. This evolved onwards from the year of 1927. During this time he painted ‘Guernica’ in response to a bombing raid carried out on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. It remains one of the most disturbing and alarming anti-war paintings.
During his life, Picasso suffered periods of depression that affected his artistic flare. It can be seen in his paintings. He was an incorrigible womanizer, like so many of the other artists and had countless relationships with girlfriends, prostitutes, mistresses and muses. He was married twice, first to a ballerina called Olga Khokhlova. The marriage took place in 1918 and lasted nine years. In 1961, at the age of 69, he married Jacqueline Roque.
To visit the Picasso museum in Paris is to visit an era of art and a period of artistic evolution and development that charts the events of history and time. The museum presents an almost unique demonstration of how art has been blended somehow, with our modern understandings of the nature of the universe around us all. The fundamentals of modern physics almost. Surely a latter day form of artistic E=mc squared.
Musée Picasso Paris – there is online ticket booking facility on the website, you can also check to see which periods are available for visits and which are fully booked.
Bob Lyons is an pilot turned travel writer who journeys all over France.