Seeing Picasso with New Eyes
Recently I read a quote attributed to Proust in which he said that you don’t need to go away to experience change, you just need to see things with new eyes. Or in other words, when change happens within, things appear differently. So I went to see the Picasso exhibit at the de Young Museum, currently showcasing the permanent collection of The Musée National Picasso in Paris, which I had already seen a few years ago. But I wanted to see Picasso with new eyes and enter his imagination.
“Seated woman in front of a window” (1937). The body is distorted, pieced together into separate forms, reconstructed to the painter’s liking and colored in pastels – greens, blues, pinks and yellows – triggering a playful response. The face is a somewhat serious, half profile, half frontal view. What we tend to see as a whole, Picasso saw as parts, as colors, as irregularities. This is how his imagination saw the body of this woman gazing at a window. I don’t see judgment here. He is playing with his vision, and he alters and embellishes. There are no rules to seeing! He was free to create.
“Portrait of Dora Maar” (1937). Her upper-body is made to look oversized, framed by what looks like a narrow room, almost a cubicle. She is polished and stylish. Her nails are red, her hair is nicely cut, and her big eyes are enjoying the attention she is receiving from the one seeing her. He paints her attractive with a yellow face, adding more innocence on the right side, more vulnerability on the left. Her cheeks are rosy and her slightly unbalanced face is actually expressive. The body is acknowledged to a higher degree. Attention is added to the complexity of the heart. She looks happy and present in the moment.
“Reading” (1932). Another woman, again sitting in a chair, holding a book! Her face is round, moon-like in pale purple. She looks startled, unsettled. She feels the pain of her body being manipulated to new heights. There are no edges, all parts are oval shaped, and there is more contrast between the colors. Her breasts are perfect round circles. This is not a painting I particularly like. It makes me nervous. It unsettles me. I read the fear in the face of the woman sitting and I want to move on.
“Reclining woman reading” (1939). He liked to paint women reading. I like to gaze at paintings of women reading. She is silent, calm and drawn to her book. He can see through her, pierce her body with his eyes and imagine it somehow off logical limits. She has blues eyes directed at the page and wears a blue dress. Her breast and her hips are emphasized in a sexualized manner. The lips are red and plum. She is dreaming and she is attractive. It is what he thinks when he paints her. He paints her because he loves her stillness and her dreaminess.
Women, women, women! They were his muses. He loved them for their differences, for their colorful personas, for appearing so un-whole, so unique and fragile, so easily reconstructed in colorful forms through his imagination and his talent. He let himself see them with new eyes, and the world marveled.