For the February session of the Reading Club we counted on the luxury presence of Jaume Capdevila, ‘KAP’, with whom we spoke about this wonderful book, interesting for all kinds of people interested on Picasso, and centered on his first period in Paris and his relationship with Fernande Olivier. The memories of this lady, that we read in the club in one of the previous editions, are precisely the inspiration of the project of Birmant and Oubrerie.
Cover of the graphic novel Pablo Picasso 1. Max Jacob de Julie Birman and Clément Oubrerie
The project of the two Frenchmen is a delight: the recreation of a graphic novel (a ‘comic book’, in the words of Jaume Capdevila) in four volumes, of the first years of Picasso in Paris, that is to say, as Jaume immediately observed, the biographical arch that goes from ‘Pablo’ to ‘Picasso’. Each of the volumes pivots around a relevant figure in the life of the painter: Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Matisse and, finally, Picasso, the figure of a split personality the painter suffered when, to somehow say, enters into History.
Covers of the different volumes of the series of graphic novels
The interpretation of KAP turns out, today, to be indispensable: it helps us to detect details in the background of a vignette, to understand the sort of decision faced by an illustrator, in searching for information translated in a brushstroke or in a caricature that fills the background of the images. In the number of layers of signs that there are in each page of Birmant and Oubrerie that open up ways of reading that the novel offers its readers without imposing just one, a translation especially precise of what the Paris of the moment must have been like at the time, cruel and savage, as Fernande the narrator says, which literally flies over the history of Picasso. We entertain ourselves thinking of the game between the ‘look of the Cyclops’ (of the interested, of the fanatic, of the mediocre, that only sees the world with one eye, like the representation is of the failed painter and old lover of Olivier, Laurent Debienne) and that of the huge eyes of Picasso, that see Fernande, maybe one of the women most looked at, and, at the same time, the least perceived.
Ilustration of the graphic novel Pablo Picasso 1. Max Jacob de Julie Birman and Cément Oubrerie
To explain Picasso from visual language, moreover, turns out to be a luxury and a challenge. A challenge, because, at this point in history, and after the conversion of ‘Pablo’ to ‘Picasso’, it is difficult for anyone to achieve a clean, fresh outlook on the artist, that is to say, without the reference of the multiple works by the artist that we all have seen or the multiple informations we all have received on the sensations or textures of what the Bohemian cabaret and circus life should have been like at the beginning of the century. A luxury, because it counts on all these languages, and uses the blues from the Blue Period or the sepias of the Rose period as a privileged starting point for a deployment of subtle and evocative referential games, self-conscious and respectful. We ask Jaume and he confirms it thus: a delight.