Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1917

I finished reading A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel. The second volume of a planned four volume set, this book focuses on the inception and rise of the Cubist movement. I read the first volume a little less than two years ago and enjoyed it enough that I bought the second volume.

As I mentioned when I read the first volume, I have always been fascinated by Picasso; there is so much variety in his work. We got a chance to see quite a bit of his work in Spain last summer. We toured the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and saw Picasso's Guernica at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.

After finishing the book, I turned to Sharon and said "I finished the stupid book." Obviously, this is not a ringing endorsement. After my perspective, the book spent too much time focusing on obscure discussions about the different schools of cubism and the arguments between their proponents.

The book explores Picasso's relationship with Georges Braque and their development of cubism as an art form. It also tracks Picasso's unsuccessful search for a wife through several relationships over the course of the the ten years.

I had hoped that it would provide more of a glimpse into life during World War I. Picasso lived in Paris and the south of France during the war years. As a pacifist, Picasso successfully avoided any involvement. Although inconvenienced by the war, Picasso was largely able to live his life uninterrupted.

This is not a book that I recommend for the casual reader. I struggled to get through it more than anything that I have read in the last twenty years. Nevertheless, I will read the next volume. I am interested in getting a complete picture of Picasso's life.

Like the first volume, the book has over 900 paintings, sketches and photos. Many of the key paintings from this period are either in Russia or in the hands of private collections. There are a couple that I of paintings that I am going to try and track down some day.

Three Women - State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Girl with the Mandolin - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Accordionist - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Women in an Armchair - Collection Sally Ganz, New York

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