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Picasso and his Women

Valerie Woodgate, lecturer for NADFAS as well as other art galleries, explained the relevance of women - models, lovers and wives, - to Picasso’s work. “He believed in serial monogamy with considerable overlapping”.

Her excellent and comprehensive selection of slides meant that we could follow Picasso’s changes in style from the classical study of his sister in “First Communion” 1896/7 (Barcelona) and his “Self-Portrait” 1896/7 (Barcelona) when he was only 14, through his Blue and Rose periods to Cubism and beyond. I shall give details of some paintings that illustrate these periods in the course of these notes.

Moving from Barcelona with his close friend Carlos Casegemas to Paris in 1900 Picasso was influenced by all he saw; from the work of Matisse he copied the bright colours of the Fauve, from Van Gogh his loose brush strokes and from Toulouse-Lautrec the subject matter of Montmartre, for instance “Margot (Harlot with Hand on her shoulder)” 1901 (Barcelona).

When Carlos killed himself in 1903 Picasso was distraught, his work became drained of colour, cold and elongated, work reminiscent of El Greco. This was his Blue Period.“The Tragedy” (Washington) and “The Old Jew”`(Washington) both painted in 1903.

Picasso’s Blue period changed to Rose as Fernande Olivier became his model and lover. This was a time for warm earth colours, the terracotta and pinks of Spain. However, the 1907 Exhibition of African Tribal Carvings in Paris had a profound effect on Picasso and the other artists of the avant –garde. “Portrait of Gertrude Stein” 1906 (Metropolitan, New York)

While giving her audience lots of lovely gossipy information regarding his lifestyle, Valerie also explained in detail Picasso’s major paintings. The first of these seminal works was “Les Demoiselles D’Avignon” 1907 (MOMA, New York, the picture of prostitutes in a street in Barcelona. She gave a detailed critique /explanation of the painting, which is considered to be the most important picture in modern art, and of how Picasso’s self confidence and his desire to experiment continued throughout his lifetime. This painting however, was not seen in public until 1916 nine years later, by which time Picasso and other artists were ‘fragmenting reality’ which in time lead to the Cubism of Picasso and Braque.