The museum participates in the University Master’s Degree of Research in Art and Design organised by the school EINA, by contributing knowledge about the creative process of Picasso. This master’s degree points towards two aspects, on the one hand it takes an in-depth look at the critical theory of art and design, and on the other it debates about how art and design can be ways of researching aspects of the world that produce knowledge.
Commented visit of the exhibition “Journey through the blue: La Vie”. Work: Pablo Picasso. La Vie. 1903. Oil on canvas. The Cleveland Museum of Art. Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1945.24
For last week’s session, and within the framework of some of the approaches covered in the module 2 of the master’s degree (such as the workof art as an intimate space for the representation of personal mythologies), the last days of the stay of La Vie were taken advantage of, and a session was given by the curators of the exhibition “Journey Through the Blue: La Vie”: Malén Gual, curator of the collection of the museum and Reyes Jiménez, head of Preventive Conservation, as well as a visit with them to the exhibition.
Malén Gual focused her presentation on the portraits that Picasso did of his friend Carles Casagemas:
“Casagemas was the artist Picasso did most portraits of. In less than two years, from his first meeting in 1899 until the death of the former in February 1901, Picasso did thirty portraits and caricatures of his friend, even though maybe the most important ones are those that he did after the suicide of Casagemas.
Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Carles Casagemas. 1899-1900. Oil on canvas. 55 x 45 cm. MPB 110.022 | Pablo Picasso. Portrait of Carles Casagemas. 1899-1900. Charcoal on paper. 30.3 x 19.9 cm. MPB 110.653
Unlike traditional portrait artists, Picasso tended to paint from memory. The subjects he painted are more imagined and remembered than seen. In his portraits there is a transformation, a concept of a considerable level of objectivity and subjectivity simultaneously. In the first portraits, the artist tries to represent the turbulent psychology of the character, but soon abandons the analysis of the personality and stops in the characteristic details of Casagemas to show him in multiple individual or group caricatures.
Pablo Picasso. The Painter Casagemas and Picasso Following Two Girls (The Painter Casagemas and Picasso). 1900. Pen and sepia ink, watercolour and gouache on paper. 18 x 8 cm. MPB 113.004 | Pablo Picasso. Sketches: Picador and others. 1900. Conté crayon and pen and ink on paper. 21 x 13.7 cm. MPB 110.289 | Detail MPB 110.289
Picasso heard about the suicide of Casagemas (February 17th 1901) through a missive that Ramon Reventós sent to him in Madrid. Apart from the drawing that he sent to accompany the obituary note that appeared in Catalunya Artística, the reaction of Picasso was not reflected in his paintings immediately, but took place six months afterwards, once he had settled in Paris, in the same studio that Casagemas had inhabited, in the boulevard Clichy, nº 130.
The three works that Picasso did of his dead friend are essential for understanding the transition period from the “Vollard style” to the blue period. Picasso distanced himself suddenly from the spectacle of the world to do an exercise of sentimental introspection, which culminated in the Evocation or Burial of Casagemas of 1901.
More than two years after the death of Casagemas, and while he worked on the ambitious and important painting of La Vie, Picasso invoked the presence of his friend and rectified his original idea by replacing the face of the dead friend.”
On the other hand, Reyes Jiménez talks about Picasso’s work as an expression of intimate and personal mythologies focusing it from a technical point of view:
“Being in the right place at the right time, that’s what Picasso did by travelling to Paris in 1900. The title of the exhibition “Journey Through the Blue: La Vie” communicated a clear message, the journey as an intellectual experience.
It shows a trajectory with a double route: one which is lived by the artist through his pictorial process, and the other which one century later we ourselves are carrying out through some of his works, so as to try and decipher them.
By analysing the paintings of 1902-1903 we enter into the studio of the artist in Barcelona, in the Riera de Sant Joan. We then understand that in Picasso there isn’t a dichotomy between creative practice and life,because his plastic values included the essence of all the experiences and suffering of four intense years, 1900-1904.
Reyes Jiménez, during the process of studying the work Barcelona Rooftops | X-ray image of Barcelona Rooftops that reveals the existence of an earlier picture
When Casagemas committed suicide in 1901, Picasso was far away from Paris, but would return months later to evoke him in a posthumous homage that would be a paradigm of the evolution of his palette.
Painting his dead friend could have had a therapeutic effect, and allowed him to “speak” of the conflict of not having lived his death in person. A therapeutic exercise that began with crude realism in three small mortuary portraits, and concluded in a lyrical way, back in Barcelona, by incorporating his friend in his major work of 1903, La Vie.
If the spontaneity of the painting of 1900 had started disappearing, the persistence of certain elements of his works as a whole was a constant in his production from 1902-1904, making the blue period a closed circle, the poles of which ended up being found.
Nowadays we know that many works from this period are connected. They are joined together in an evident way or with keys that we can decipher by means of scientific-technical study: archetypes of characters that are repeated in successive works, figures that are presented from different perspectives, parallel scenes that can be reconstructed as different moments of the same situation.
The analysis of the pictorial structure has revealed an extraordinary information, but based on these conclusions they represent an exercise that approaches the setting of the artist’s studio as a space of creation. Reconstructing the complex puzzle that the blue period represented will oblige us to make a compendium of a new visions of the five continents because the keys to complete it are hidden in institutions thousands of kilometres apart.
‘The work of art only has an aesthetic status when it becomes the experience of a human being’. John Dewey couldn’t have been more right when he wrote these words.”