By Ryder W. Miller
For those interested in learning about painting, they will not need to visit Paris this summer, as others have traditionally done in the past, since many of the paintings of one of the greatest painters of the 20th century have been brought here to the City by the Bay.
On display at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum through Oct. 9 is “Picasso, Masterpieces from the Muse’e National Picasso, Paris,” which provides a retrospective of one of the most famous and influential painters of last century. The French museum is currently closed for renovation so many of its exhibits hit the road.
Many of Picasso’s creations are available to the public, who can see his contribution and influence in this 70-year retrospective is evident.
As noted in the de Young show, Picasso did not keep a regular written diary. Instead, he painted it. He was the biggest collector of his own works, but eventually donated 3,600 paintings to the French government.
Picasso (1881-1973), originally from Spain, is an inspiring figure because he initially did not succeed as a painter in Paris. But, after a few tries he found success, and later fame and fortune.
Like others of his time, Picasso traveled to France to learn how to paint. Once there, he helped create the beginning of the Modern Art movement.
He also worked in a variety of forms as shown in the display. There are some of his famous paintings, but not the blockbuster paintings “Guernica” or “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” There are, however, studies for some of those famous paintings.
On the local scene, the public can see a tribute to “Guernica” at the bicycle store on the corner of Stanyan and Frederick streets, at the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park.
It is difficult to follow the entirety of Picasso’s life in one exhibit, expecially since Picasso produced so much art during his long career. He started painting realistic figures before he got caught up in the desire to capture representational abstractions.
Picasso was a child prodigy whose father taught painting.
Gertrude Stein wrote that Picasso was the first to really see and understand the 20th century. This was a time in which almost everything was destroyed.
Although Picasso is the man who is credited with helping create Cubism, he did get some help, including from artist Georges Braque.
Included in the de Young exhibit are a couple of self portraits, including “The Artist before his Canvas” (1938) and “Self Portrait in Straw Hat” (1938).
The odd eyes, noses and figures in motion begin here in 1907. The odd eyes bring attention to the way we and others see each other and the world.
Some women may have been bothered by the way they were represented in Picasso’s paintings, but the strange representations were an abrupt change in the way portraitures and traditional nudes were perceived.
According to John Berger, Picasso could “see himself only when reflected in a woman.” He had many mistresses and models over the length of his life and the public is left with his unusual “diary,” some entries of which were about women fighting over him. His early paintings included attractive nubile forms having fun at the shore.
Over the years, Picasso excelled in all sorts of painterly forms as well as collage and sculpture. Art novices may not recognize many of the works on display, but together they paint a portrait of an innovative thinker who could represent his ideas in a visual medium.
As the exhibit states, Picasso “dissolved barriers” and “transformed art.” He was an explorer and a bit of a stranger, being a painter among writers early in his career, and a Spaniard living amongst the French. Ultimately, he created a place for himself in the history of art.