ART/Culture: Picasso – the Artist and his Muses

Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it? – Pablo Picasso

Femme au collier jaune, oil on canvas, 1946 by Pablo Picasso
Femme au collier jaune, oil on canvas, 1946 by Pablo Picasso

They say behind every great man there is a great woman.  And behind every great male artist there is a great muse (or muses).  Are there any male muses?  Probably not because commonly a muse is a woman who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist (who is male).  In mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolized the arts and sciences.  Therefore I do not know of any male muses to date.  So unfair.  I will research this a little more and get back to you because there should really be some don’t you think?

In modern days you might say that Brooke Shields and Kate Moss were muses to Calvin Klein,  Amanda Harlech to Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld to both Tom Ford & Karl Lagerfeld (oh that Karl, he has several and he’s not even straight so those women must be awesome).

In theory a good muse should not only be physically attractive (at least to the artist) and alluring but also interesting, attentive, amuseing, offer emotional support and be sexual.  Offer something special to inspire the artist to want to devote time and effort to paint, write, sing, whatever their artistic endeavour.  Otherwise why bother right?

Picasso had many muses and six of them are on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Femme couchée lisant, 1939, oil on canvas. This subject in this piece is Picasso's last wife Jacqueline Roque.
Femme couchée lisant, 1939, oil on canvas. This subject in this piece is Picasso’s last wife Jacqueline Roque.

It appears that Picasso was not good relationship material.  Interesting, Yes…Talented, yes…just non-committal and not very nice to his women.  Picasso had affairs with dozens, perhaps hundreds of women, and was true to none of them – except possibly the last.  At least he was upfront.

“Women are machines for suffering,” Picasso told his mistress Françoise Gilot in 1943. Indeed, as they embarked on their nine-year affair, the 61-year-old artist warned the 21-year-old student: “For me there are only two kinds of women, goddesses and doormats”.

And there were some unfortunate incidents…

I read that out of the seven most important women in Picasso’s life, two killed themselves and two went mad. Another died of natural causes only four years into their relationship.

At the same time he was obsessed and dependent on these women.  In any event and to our advantage they definitely influenced the development of his art. Which led to this exhibit Picasso: The Artist and his Muses.

Now until October 2nd at the Vancouver Art Gallery:

Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery

Below taken from Vancouver Art Gallery Website:

Known for his enormous contribution to the canon of great art in the 20th century, Pablo Ruiz y Picasso (1881—1973) is one of the masters of Modernism. Examining the significance of the six women who were inspirational to his artistic development, Picasso: The Artist and His Muses is the most significant exhibition of Picasso’s work ever presented in Vancouver. Beginning in early 20th-century Paris, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey through the lives and personalities of Fernande Olivier, Olga Khokhlova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot and Jacqueline Roque, who were all principal figures in Picasso’s personal life and strongly influenced the development of his career. Picasso’s innovations in painting, drawing, print and sculpture are conveyed through recurring motifs such as the seated woman and reclining nude. The exhibition presents major works that dramatically altered the course of European art history.

It is a must-see

“I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them”

Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs” – Picasso



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