Picasso Museum in Barcelona: The Father of Man

New art faces much initial resistance and then is finally accepted. Once accepted, new art becomes great art. Then it spawn imitators, and then it becomes a cliche that makes its way onto posters and coffee mugs. Newer art must come to take its place. That is essentially the motivation of every artist that aspires for greatness. To see the same things in a different and original way. The more interesting question for me has always been: how does it get to being there? Meaning, how does an artist go from an apprentice to a truly great one? How does the unique vision come about? What propels the shift in perspective?

In a sense, after the first few Cubist paintings, the whole idea ceased to be original; it became a genre. There is much to be done in a genre, but the truly original artist creates one. If there is an epitome of a great artist meant then there is none other than Pablo Ruiz Picasso (Peter Schjeldahl wrote that Matisse and Picasso are still tied in overtime for that titleNew Yorker, June 26) Picasso is at once symbolic for art and artists in the 20th century, and also for what baffles people about modernism or abstract art.

My own experience with Picasso's work has run backwards. I first saw some of his masterpieces at the National Art Gallery in Mumbai as part of traveling exhibition hosted by the French government. It was mostly his later work. The next time I saw a Picasso was in Musee Picasso in Paris. This museum that is housed in magnificent mansion in Marais quarter and is the most extensive collection. The paintings were 'acquired' by the French government from the Picasso estate for unpaid taxes. The size and extent of the collection makes one wonder about the actual income if these were just the taxes! This museum contains the most representative of Picasso's paintings and sculptures. Portraits of his mistresses and lovers - Marie-Terese and Dora Maar, the bulls and the guitars.

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona which I last visited is an entirely different story. Of all the museums that I have seen this is perhaps the most accessible. Picasso who was born in 1872, and in his teenage years lived in Barcelona where is father was a teacher at the local art school. Another fact that the guidebooks and other sources never fail to mention is where Picasso lost his virginity to some local prostitute.

The museum was initially created from the personal collected of his sister and contains all his early work up to 1902. After that 1902, Picasso made a final move to France and never returned to Spain. There was no question after Franco assumed power to even visit Spain. Picasso the artist of the Left vowed never to return to Spain till Franco was alive. Unfortunately for Picasso and the rest of Spain, Franco outlived Picasso by two years. Picasso died in 1973. It was Picasso's intention that a musuem should be established in his hometown Barcelona.

Picasso famously remarked that he never drew like a child. "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child". I sometimes wondered if this was a boast. After visiting the museum, I know that it was not boast. The sketchbooks and paintings show that as teenager Picasso had mastered classical drawing and painting.

It was inevitable that he would quickly tire of the classic forms and move on to something new and different. He had nothing more to learn in terms of draftsmanship, or refine in terms of technique. If it wasn't Cubism, it would have been something else, that change was coming was inevitable.

Just like his contemporary Einstein, Picasso showed his genius early (before 1910) and then spent the rest of the next six decades refining that idea and chasing the idea of what art meant, what it represented, where it should go next. He went from highly stylized, imitative drawing to more basic forms in abstract geometry shapes, and then finally to drawing like a child. A few lines and dabs of color here and there.

The museum humanized Picasso. It shows the progression, the development, the wit, and the promise of great things yet to come. The creation of his later masterpieces - L'Demoiselles D'Avignon, Guernica, didn't just come about from thin air. Picasso the youth drew and sketched obsessively. He had more than 10,000 hours of practice drawing before he moved to Paris.

For all its fame and accessibility the Picasso Museum still come second for the title of the most visited museum in Barcelona. The most visited museum in Barcelona? F.C. Barcelona's museum in Camp Nou.

Experimental error

The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it.
- H. G. Wells

The Original Ultralight Backpacker

When John Muir stepped into the Yosemite backcountry, biographer Amy Marquis noted he traveled alone, carrying "only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson." If you can keep your pack load that small, feel free to take along a favorite book. You deserve such a luxury.
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