Who Was Pablo Picasso and Why Was He So Important? – ARTnews.com

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death on April 8, 1973, at age 91. He died in Mougins, France, at his hilltop villa, a 35-room mansion surrounded by 17 acres adjacent to the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Vie—a site that, until the 18th century, had served as a sanctuary for families from the region who came to have their stillborn children baptized.

The estate, located not far from Cannes on the French Riviera, was one of many expansive properties owned by Picasso that attested to the fame and fortune he’d accrued over a legendary 70-year career. But another salient feature of Picasso’s life took form in the woman who stood by his bedside that day: his second wife, Jacqueline Roque, who was 45 years his junior. The age differential was typical of Picasso’s relationships with the scores of women he’d bedded, taken as mistresses, fathered children with, and been prone to emotionally abusing.

Today Picasso’s reputation as a womanizer and sexual predator has clouded his legacy as the colossus of 20th-century art, the explosive figure who birthed modernism and created the template for the artist as a superstar whose brilliance excuses all manner of sins. That attitude hasn’t aged well, and neither has the misogyny that percolates throughout Picasso’s work. In this respect, he was hardly alone among the men of his generation, but his views on women were coarse even for the standards of the day. “There are only two types of women,” he once said, “goddesses and doormats.” His thoughts on matrimony were just as unenlightened, and even violent in tone: “Every time I change wives, I should burn the last one. . . . You kill the woman, and you wipe out the past she represents.” Still, the women in Picasso’s life played a huge role in his art, as muses and as subjects who both fascinated and terrified him.

To borrow a phrase that film critic Pauline Kael bestowed on the British actor Bob Hoskins, Picasso was “a testicle on legs,” a man whose appetites were as prodigious as his artistic production. And therein lies the rub: To celebrate Picasso, you must separate the artist from his art, a tall order given how canceled he’d be if he were still with us. Yet his achievements are so overwhelming that to ignore them or his life would amount to willful blindness.

Read Part 2: 1920s to 1970s here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *