Picasso: Artist of the Twentieth Century
Picasso's titanic achievements 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 Andre 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's 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 experiences 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.