The eyes of that young girl are like Picasso’s own eyes with their mirada fuerte,nothing escapes those eyes and that gaze of Picasso’s seems to devour everything it lands upon.
Again and again, the eyes are the main point of interest in his paintings regardless of the style he uses (or invents) We see it here in the two central figures in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, one of his most celebrated works.
In a completely different style, executed in charcoal (with collage) the eyes are once more the focus in this picture of his then wife Jacqueline Roque.
In this, lesser known, work we can see the wide-eyed excitement of a child taking its first steps. This is a wonderful painting in other ways; the overarching protectiveness of the mother and the delicacy of her touch as she guides the child without grasping too tightly.
And in his final self-portrait we have an old man, shrunken of skull but still those eyes dominate the picture, staring into the undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns –
When Picasso died in 1973 it was as if a line had been drawn under the visual arts with the implicit message- follow that!
And we have been unable to do so. Over the subsequent four decades the art world has been floundering, looking for the next big thing and finding nothing of substance.
Painting has more or less disappeared and the visual arts have degenerated into infantilism and ineptitude. Words have now replaced images in that every ‘artist’ must now have an Artist’s Statement (full of meaningless platitudes) or, even worse, a manifesto! and the artworks themselves are often covered in writing. Everything now needs to be explained as if we had lost the ability to see or, more likely, artists can no longer make the invisible visible.
It seems appropriate somehow that history’s greatest painter should be the one to bring an end to the visual arts. And for those who cannot accept such an assertion, I say only – open your eyes/mind and look! Or in the words of J. Winston Lennon –
Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.
The virtue common to all great painters is that they teach us to see, but few have had a more compelling way of doing so than Picasso. His power has enchanted those who are susceptible and enraged those who resent being disturbed by his brilliance. Art itself should teach us to free ourselves from the rules of art, and this is precisely what the art of Picasso has done.
There is also reason to be grateful for the violence that he has used, for in our time, when signs of apathy and despair are easy to detect, it is only a resounding and decisive passion that can succeed. As he himself has said: “The essential in this time of moral poverty is to create enthusiasm.” Without the awakening of ardent love, no life and therefore no art has any meaning.
After watching Picasso's last Stand on TV the other night https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xptbr I thought the overall message of the programme was a reinforcement of that last line I quoted from Sir Roland Penrose's biography: " Without the awakening of ardent love, no life and therefore no art has any meaning." I have seen a few of the paintings shown in the programme, the ones in the Picasso Museum in Paris and they are indeed 'passionate' paintings, vibrant and 'full of meaning'. I have seen a lot of his paintings over the years and always there is the sense that they are somehow alive, their 'presence' can be felt in the galleries. (Rembrandt's paintings have that same quality.) Not all of his work has that vitality. I have always thought that Guernica was a flat and lifeless painting; when he does a 'political' painting it is nothing more than a gesture, his heart is not really in it which reflects that quotation above. As I wrote in the original post "When Picasso died in 1973 it was as if a line had been drawn under the visual arts with the implicit message- follow that!" ... and we have not and we cannot follow that!