If it’s Friday, it must be France …
In the summer of 1946, Pablo Picasso was in a good mood. The war was over and he was in the south of France with his new lover Françoise Gilot, who was 40 years younger.
Staying in Golfe-Juan, close to Antibes, through a chance meeting on the beach he was offered space for a studio in the Musée Grimaldi. A Roman fort that was rebuilt in the 14thC, it was being used at the time as a provincial antiquities museum.
Although he only used the chateau for a couple of months he was prodigious, leaving 22 paintings and 43 drawings to be kept on display in the space. As explained by Tony Myers in an article in the British newspaper The Guardian, “When he moved in, Picasso told the curator that he would decorate the walls of the castle as a thank you. But they were in a rough state of repair, and in the end Picasso was unable to fulfil his promise, with the exception of one graphite drawing, Les Clés d’Antibes. (The drawing can still be seen in the hall of the Grimaldi.) Instead, he donated the work he’d done there to the museum, stipulating that they should remain there permanently. “Anyone who wants to see them will have to come to Antibes,” he declared.”
When Picasso first arrived in Antibes there was a shortage of art materials – of everything, really, after the terrible years of WW2 – so he worked with what was available locally. Instead of canvas, he created backings of asbestos-cement and he used boat paint obtained from the fisherman at the port. Household paintbrushes and other crude implements replaced his usual painting and drawing supplies. Undaunted he painted with abandon, inspired by the beauty of his surroundings.
Wherever you go along the French Riviera, copies of paintings are often mounted on the spot where the artist sketched or painted the original. It’s an exciting feeling to know you are standing there!
I walked past this one practically every day on my morning walk. Loved it! He painted this colorful scene just before the outbreak of the war in 1939 and some have interpreted strong anti-war symbols while others see an exuberant depiction of the simple life of fishermen in Antibes. Take a look at the closeup below. What’s your take on it?
“The scene was one well familiar to Picasso, and he translated it with exuberance and vivid color into his own personal and stylized painting. He shows the spear fishermen of Antibes, in the south of France, working close to the shore, luring the fish to the surface with a lamp. Their activities have stopped some interested bystanders on the quay, two girls who pause in the languid evening to watch the outcome. One (at the right) holds a bicycle and licks at a double-dip ice cream cone. In the background on the left is the blocky form of the old castle of Grimaldi which, since the time of the painting, has become a Picasso museum.” (SI, 11/01/1960)
Are you a fan of Picasso’s art or do you look at it and wonder “What the … ?”. One thing we know for certain, the number of ways people express themselves creatively is impossible to count. Picasso is quoted as saying, “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Would you agree with that?