Picasso: Artist of the 20th C.
Picasso�s titanic achievement�as painter, sculptor, and printmaker�reflects
nearly every aspect of 20th-century experience. And a close examination
of his art and life can show us how one immensely fertile imagination
grappled with all the crosscurrents of modern culture. From his early days in
Barcelona�s hardscrabble bohemia to his later decades as a living legend on
the Riviera, Picasso felt the pulse of modernity. His work embraces political
radicalism and erotic experimentation, ivory-tower formalism and popular
culture. Picasso was a man of paradoxes, and by exploring his contradictions
we can gain unique insights into the challenges that any artist faces in
the modern world. He was a traditionalist but also a nihilist, a man who
remained true to his Spanish origins even as he passed much of his life in
the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Paris. He painted not only some of the most
delicately lyrical works of his century but also, in Guernica, the ultimate
political protest mural. His close engagement with Braque in the invention
of Cubism may be the grandest collaborative effort in all the visual arts.
Yet at times he was the most solitary of creators, developing at the end of
his life, in the prints of Suite 347, an unparalleled private erotic mythology.
His friends and admirers included some of the essential authors of his time
(both Gertrude Stein and Andr� Malraux wrote books about his work),
but he was also the first artist to be wholeheartedly embraced by a celebrity
culture. In class we examine a series of images and texts that are central
to the understanding of Picasso�ranging from his early studies of circus
performers, to his surrealist mythologies, to the aesthetic views reflected in
his writings. At the same time, students work individually on various aspects
of his life and experience�from his political activism and possible anarchist
sympathies, to his involvement with the performing arts, to the surrealist
photography of his lover, Dora Maar, to his appearances in photojournalism
and the movies. We also visit museums and print collections in order
to gain a closer understanding of his technical innovations in painting,
printmaking, sculpture, and collage.