Barcelona Professor Matther Clear offered our class a lecture today entitled Pablo Picasso: Creator or Destroyer? It focused particularly on the early Picasso, reflecting the Málaga-born but Barcelona-raised artists' history in Spain, and preparing us for a visit to the Picasso Museum, whose holdings reflect this same Spanish perspective.
We all know of Picasso the cubist, and we may have seen an image or two from his formative years before cubism — his famous Blue Period, for example — but Professor Clear took us through a detailed examination of Picasso's formative years, emphasizing the links between his personal biography and his early artistic output. These links lead in two directions: family relations on the one hand, and the string of Picasso's wives [there were two] and loves [there were scores].
Picasso's father was an artist and art teacher with a penchant for genre-style painting, frequently of the doves in the family dovecote. His style was realist, and somewhat conventional for the period. Picasso took up his father's interest in art, but quickly demonstrated a remarkable early aptitude for working across a variety of styles. Seemingly he could paint in any style he wished. While Picasso started a traditional academic program of instruction very much like his father might have taught, he rather quickly left school and educated himself by copying works in Madrid's Prado. In several of these early works, Picasso's family, particularly his mother and sister, figure as models.
As for the influence of his wives and loves, Prof. Clear reminded us that "Picasso had regular short periods of genuine commitment" to his succession of wives and lovers, and several of the early works we saw are of his first wife, the ballet dancer Ogla Khoklova.
Following our lecture, we walked through old Barcelona to the Picasso Museum, housed in a medieval palace with an extraordinary staircase glimpsed in passing. [The Museum is a hugely popular place with tourists, and booking for groups needs to be made weeks ahead.] It holds roughly 4,000 Picasso works, predominantly from his early pre-cubist years, but also featuring 50 or so works from the 1950's painted in a two-year burst of painting while Picasso was in his villa in the south of France. Prof. Clear narrated us through the collection in particularly fine form. –John Schott [Above: Pablo Picasso: Self-Portrait, c1901]