Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a genius, there’s no denying that. He was gifted and driven. He was also an ass, amongst several other things.
His life had several tragedies but at some point, it’s hard to feel bad for him.
Does this mean we should completely disregard his art? No. This can influence how we perceive and appreciate their artwork. People make the point of separating the art from the artist, to which I agree to an extent, but being a genius doesn’t make you unaccountable for being an ass, especially when he made art involving his actions.
It’s important to engage with art critically.
Now some of you might not know much about what Picasso did. Well, here are some reasons (this could go on for a while but I decided to keep it short):
The man was abusive
Let’s start with Fernande Olivier. She was one of Picasso’s earliest flames. Olivier was also a fantastic modeler at the time. In 1905 after moving in together Picasso put a halt to her posing for other artists. Any attempts to do so were met with brazen jealousy. He even went as far as locking her in their apartment so she couldn’t leave whenever he went out.
It became even more complicated when the pair decided to adopt a young thirteen-year-old girl. It was smooth sailing until Olivier discovered explicit drawings of the child done by Picasso. This led Olivier to have to return the young girl.
When Olivier fell ill, Picasso went scampering off to the next woman. It’s a common thing for Picasso to do. Get bored with this one and move on to the next. This was done enough along with physical abuse to drive two of his lovers to suicide. He had gone through three wives and a handful of mistresses.
Let’s not forget he drew himself as a minotaur violating women because he “cannot resist the urge”.
or the famous quotes describing women as “either goddesses or doormats” and “Machines for suffering”.
This treatment extended to his children and grandchildren. He would often have his grandchildren over and not feed them because “it was not his responsibility”, despite having meals for himself and his wife.
Let’s talk about African Art
Picasso was undoubtedly influenced by African art. The birth of cubism can be thanked, largely uncredited to or stolen from, African art (Which at the time was called primitivism, a topic for a later time).
His abstract figures are largely similar to those of the time that he saw in the Trocadero Museum, a trip that he once claimed changed him. Picasso would dismiss any claims of connections to African art with the quote “N*gro art? Don’t know it”. Despite this rebuttal, his art from 1906 to 1909 was titled his “African” period.
He was also a devout collector of African art. The faces on the right of the two women Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (seen below) were taken from Totem Art he collected.
want to put it out there that most famous artists out had something unpleasant about them. They’re people and people do stupid stuff sometimes. I’m not saying we should completely throw Picasso’s art out the window (him if he were alive? maybe, but not his art).
I stemmed this post from a comment I saw while skimming around art history videos.
“Well, they were a genus that changed history, and no one made art as they did.”
It’s kind of interesting to romanticize people to the point of completely dismissing their wrongdoings. There are a few other artists that I would like to take a look at ( Jackson Pollock, Frida Khalo, and so on)
Picasso Resources/ Literature
- Life with Picasso by Françoise Gilot
- A Life of Picasso I: The Prodigy: 1881-1906 by John Richardson
- A Life of Picasso II: The Cubist Rebel: 1907-1916 by John Richardson
- A Life of Picasso III: The Triumphant Years: 1917-1932 by John Richardson
- Françoise Gilot interview on Pablo Picasso (1998)
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Have a happy Monday everyone!