In the words of John Richardson, arguably Picasso’s premier biographer, “Before
he died, Picasso endeavored to cannibalize as much as he could of European art.
He sent for slides of old and not-so-old masters, and had Jacqueline project
them on one of his studio walls. And they would all spend evenings dissecting
Rembrandt’s Night Watch or van Gogh’s Self-Portrait
in a Straw Hat.
Rembrandt inspired a whole new cast of characters, cavaliers and musketeers.
And van Gogh’s self-portrait inspired some of Picasso’s self-portraits
(J. Richardson, Picasso: Magic, Sex, Death, lectures on DVD, 2003,
Even more so, Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe (Luncheon on
the Grass), is one of those famous paintings that seemed to have taken up
of Picasso’s thought. In fact, Manet’s painting seems to have preoccupied
him for 2 ½ years, between 1960 and 1962, with numerous resultant drawings,
some paintings, several prints, and even a ceramic. One of these prints, Bloch
1027 (March 13, 1962) is very colorful and rather celebrated, having broken the
six figure mark already in 1999, but I don’t favor it, especially in comparison
to some of the accompanying ones in shades of brown. In fact, I’m not so
fond of most of the results of this series in any medium. I would hold up three
prints as exceptions to the rule, and of these I’m exceedingly fond.
They are somewhat more loosely related to the theme than most, being portraits
just of the bather in the background of Manet’s painting. Whereas
I find the full-blown depictions of all four picnickers to be rather tedious
and lacking in harmony, the portraits of the bather strike me as very charming.
Though she’s not exactly bathing in most of Picasso’s works. She
may not even have been in Manet’s, but she certainly wasn’t pissing,
as she is in some of Picasso’s drawings. Nor was she picking flowers, as
in this print, Femme Nue Cuiellant des Fleurs (Bloch 1092, April 20,
1962), which Brigitte Baer calls a variation of the Manet. Though Baer
next two prints in her catalogue are related to this series, they are of course.
These two include the Femme a la Source, a bather at a spring (Bloch
from April 20), and Femme Nue Pechant des Truites a la Main (April 22,
Baer 1327; not in Bloch or Kramer; see elsewhere in the catalogue), which shows
quixotically pushing her luck by trying to catch fish by hand. I guess he must
have figured her to be bored of her company. A wonder he got off this jag—next
he would have had her jumping rope or something….
These three prints are beautiful and very accomplished
works. They depict a female form, bending over in each case, in
a wonderfully colossal fashion, looser yet reminiscent of his
gargantuan women of the early ‘twenties. In the print at
picking flowers (note the garden snail). Two days later she’s
in a similar pose, but bathing at a spring (Bloch 1093). The fish
cavorting at the base of the waterfall in this print may have inspired
the presumably subsequent print that day (Ba 1327), in which she’s
turned on the trout.