Oil Paintings: Picasso in Toronto

In just a few short weeks (March 31st, to be exact), tickets go on sale for “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso” , an exhibition which begins May 1st.  That Picasso is coming to the AGO is incredibly exciting: this particular exhibit will have over 150 works that he has handpicked,  meaning that there will be pieces from all his different periods: the Blue Period, the Rose Period, the African-Inspired Period, and more.

At Warm Colours, we are so excited to catch this exhibition. In honour of this event in Toronto, I would like to take a look at two particular pieces of Picasso’s that I find incredibly profound. I’m not sure if they will be at the exhibition, but even if they are not, they are worth looking at!

The first one is “The Old Guitarist”, one of his most famed Blue Period oil paintings.  Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904) was four years in which he primarily painted with only dark colours, shades of blue and greys, with very little use of warmer colours. Working with these colours, Picasso was able to even more deeply explore the dark content and subjects he was portraying: those affected by poverty,  the misfits of society, the grim realities of the streets.

“The Old Guitarist” is certainly in keeping with this sober tone: the torn clothing and gaunt complexion of this old man indicate his poverty;

there is no warm light coming from behind him, and his setting looks cold and lonely.  His skin looks frighteningly pale, and the attention to his thin frame, from the sinews in his neck to his bony ankles brings chills.  However, the painting does more than just depress the observer. While there is a great sense of sorrow, there is also

something oddly inspiring and moving – something about the way that he is wrapped around the guitar, something in the delicacy of his fingers as they glide across the strings: music is his life.  This is true in the practical sense of how he may use this to busk in the streets and acquire change for food, but also in a wider sense:  it sustains his spirit. The painting speaks to both the sadness in our world, in how art  and man are not cherished – but it also speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit when we have art in our lives.  Through his guitar, the old man can give voice to his sorrows, to his existence.

The second painting I call your attention to is radically different from “The Old Guitarist”. It is actually the one used in the advertisement for the exhibition at the AGO,  Picasso’s “Portrait of Dora Maar” (1937, post-Cubist period). Dora Maar was a Yugoslavian photographer and artist and Picasso’s mistress. I am drawn to this painting – and so am delighted it is being used in advertisement for the exhibition – because of his use of colour and shape. Much has been said of Picasso’s Cubism and his distortion of the human figure, but I am always struck at how Picasso can distort the human figure in a way that it is beautiful – not just that it remains beautiful, but that it almost becomes even more beautiful through the distortion and bold use of unexpected color.  While the smallness of the room around the female figure does give a sense of confinement, I am drawn more to the gracefulness in her hand on her cheek, to the small smile that plays on her lips. It is a very loving portrait – perhaps a more quiet vibrancy than some of his other paintings, but vibrancy, delight and love all the same.

If you can, check out the exhibit on Picasso when it comes to Toronto this spring!  ? Follow this link http://www.ago.net/picasso-masterpieces-from-the-musee-national-picasso-paris

to learn more about the exhibition, to find out how to purchase tickets,  and to learn more about the master himself!

And let me know below: what are some of your favourite Picasso pieces? Does he inspire you?

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