Never Too Late Picasso

Looks like we won’t have a chance to see the blockbuster Gagosian show.  By now I’ve however looked through the catalogue a couple of times and am deeply impressed by the assortment of wonderful paintings he amassed for it. (I’m not so big on late Picasso prints, with a few notable exceptions.)  John Richardson’s essay was of course also quite gratifying, as usual.  This is not at all a criticism, for as Richardson somewhere says, including drawings would have of necessity greatly broadened the scope of the show.  It would, I imagine, have been difficult to assemble a suitably representative cross-section of his late works on paper, since his output in the last few years was both vast and varied.  Much of it was also truly great, as great as anything that came before it.  I adore late Picasso paintings, or many of them anyway (I confess that it wasn’t always so, so you’re absolved if you, too, underwent an inner evolution before you, too, grew crazy about Late Picasso).  But I’ve long felt that if I were marooned on a desert island and could take along but one type of Picasso—admittedly a heart-wrenching choice, it would be a drawing.  Of course it would have to be a verdant desert island in the middle of a deep blue sea with plenty of flowers to provide color so I wouldn’t have to rely on the Picasso drawings to do so.

It’s not easy to get a handle on the late drawings.  The Online Picasso Project (OPP) is incomplete, and the most complete catalogue raisonné, Wofsy’s Picasso Project (PP), is comprised of small, black-and-white images, plus you have to buy them.  For those of you interested in an in depth survey of his late works (in all media, for that matter), the best way is to peruse them is by using both of these sources.  If you would like to limit your purchases, I’d recommend the books that include the years 1967-1972, which is when I feel Late Picasso peaked (although there are certainly many great Late Picasso drawings before then).  In order to do so, you’d need at least the last two volumes in the PP series, which span all but the first of these years (The Sixties, III: 1968-1969 and The Final Years: 1970-1973).

If you finish Richardson’s essay and are hungry for more, for further reading I’d like to recommend Picasso: The Last Years, 1963-1973, by Gert Schiff.   I think very highly of Schiff’s essay on Late Picasso, which he penned in the early ‘eighties, long before Late Picasso was fashionable, much less understood by most of us.