On a warm afternoon last Thursday, I rushed down rue des Archives, late for a tour. I’d left my house with plenty of time, in fact, with hours to spare, knowing I would wind up sticking my head in shops and all that, then need lunch suddenly, as I have a habit of not eating until 1pm, then ravenous. On the way over, I texted long notes to a friend, to catch up on our daily details, then as expected, lost my head in the Marais. Old streets buzzin’ that youthful vibe that can fire all the brain cortexes at once, marriage of art and commerce. Then you meet people and end up way-laid having a conversation about what you’re buying your dog for Xmas or where to go on vacation in February.
The Picasso Museum re-opened last year, after a 5 year renovation. The Baroque Marais mansion that houses the world’s largest collection of Picasso’s was built in the 1650’s. And it’s gorgeous! All white stone and endless white rooms. It’s also huge – 4 floors that have no rhythm or reason, in other words, it’s easy to get lost if you’re trying too hard to make sense of the place or the collection. But try to not forget to look at the sculpted stone cherubs and garlands on the grand staircase. I kept lagging behind the tour group looking at little details.
That’s part of its charm. The 400 plus works were left to the heirs of Picasso when he died in 1973, but those concerned believed it wiser to donate the collection to the State, instead of dishing out a huge inheritance tax. So France ended up with this very personal cache of works, ranging from well-known paintings that represent his “Blue Period” to scribbled notes, doodles, and literally scraps of construction paper pressed between expensive pieces of glass. In other words, it’s sublime, even if, like me, you don’t particularly like Picasso…
Walking through the museum looking at the recurring subjects: self-portraits, guitars, bullfighting, women… you can identify. Picasso was not subtle. Like Hemingway, he was a man of large and terrestrial tastes. Images are strong, even aggressive with teeth, detached limbs, explosive and unexpected lines. It’s obvious when his love life was not working out. What I do like is the sense of his avid experimentation. You sense the man’s curiosity about form, state of mind, attraction, anything in front of him. He sculpted, he painted, but he also – doodled, wrote notebooks full of nonsense, twisted wine bottle wire into little forms that looked forlorn and funny. He wasn’t afraid to be madcap.
The museum is full of cul-de-sacs, dead-ends, but that’s fine, because the light is sublime!
I’m going back in January. Like I said, I kept losing my tour group, because the light from the windows was muted and the views like the photo I shot above, so quiet and tempting.
Want to join me? Buzz me with the password – Bullfighting.