During World War I Picasso, as a Spanish citizen, was exempt from service in the French army; he also preserved his personal independence during the occupation of France in World War II. He continued to work in Paris in the face of difficulties and dangers, displaying a truly Archimedean intrepidity. His perseverance did not fail to impress friend and foe alike, and lie fully deserved the special gallery he was granted in the Salon de la Libération, the Autumn Salon of 1944, where lie exhibited nearly eighty paintings. Picasso achieved this triumph not because he had been politically active, but because for years lie had deliberately fortified his status as an artist. His weapon in this struggle was, as he himself declared, a more disciplined art: "Very likely for the poet it is a time to write sonnets," he said, referring to that period.
Throughout the war years he continued to develop his formal ideas. But at the same time he became more dependent upon those aspects of nature and art with which he was familiar, thus gaining a firmer hold on reality. Just as he had turned to Buffon's Histoire naturelle during a personal crisis in 1936, during World War II he showed a greater interest than usual in portraits and landscapes. Thus his predilection for the motif of the small tomato plant on the window sill, which he painted a number of times in August 1944, just before the Liberation of Paris, suggests a sympathy with the unfailing life-forces of growing nature. This sympathy represents a reaction against the gloomy misgivings he had recorded in the expressive still life conpositions of the preceding years, such as the large Still Life with Bull's Skull of 1942 with its sonorous violet tones, or the Still Life with Blood Sausage of 1941, which shows a serving table in the restaurant Le Savoyard, and which is pervaded by somber grays. Raynal says of these pictures that in them Picasso's palette "has put on mourning."
During the Liberation of Paris, Picasso painted a number of naturalistic portraits, among them the water color of a young girl. In this context we shall briefly discuss his fundamental conception of the portrait, and we shall try to show that Picasso's art rests primarily on his experience of individual form, even where he seems to have lost contact with it.
Picasso has painted portraits in all his periods. Though he sometimes conceives his task in a very broad sense, his intention is always to render an individual encounter. He once told Jedlicka that the effect of his portrait drawings is based not on external similarities, but on the recording of a specific mood. Whether such a mood is expressed through "circles, ovals, curves, dots, or geometric figures drawn on paper," the composition is valid, he says, as a portrait of a given person who has determined a given mood in the painter. Individualized traits are always present in Picasso's portraits even though at times the beholder can scarcely recognize them. They are present for instance in the Portrait of Mrs. H. P., of 1952, in which the figure is shown with a fantastically wild abundance of hair. If we consider the various portraits of Sabartés, dating from very different periods, we find that in all of them Sabartés' personal characteristics are unmistakably rendered, despite enormous stylistic differences. We recognize him even in the portrait of October 22, 1939, where he is shown wearing a ruff, despite the curious Surrealist distortions.
Sabartés gives us a charming account of his visit to Antibes in 1946, when Picasso, in a playful mood, sketched his friend as a satyr with horns, flute, and the inevitable spectacles. In this instance as in many others Picasso, who is not always talkative, used his art as a means of communication—and we must keep in mind that even his verbal communications often convey meanings that cannot be expressed in rational terms. His relationship with his subject is always a personal one: he has never painted anything to which he had no emotional response. He once told Kahnweiler that he had found it "monstrous" that a woman painter had represented a pipe although she was not a smoker. In addition to individualized traits, Picasso conveys imponderable personal characteristics. For instance, his portrait of Madame Nush Eluard of 1938 expresses feminine charm, even though the face is distorted and shown in multiple views. This portrait seems no less a likeness than the naturalistic one of 1941.
During the war the painter Dora Maar was his favorite model. The numerous portraits of her show common individual traits, although some are far removed from naturalistic likeness. Her vigorously sculptured, expressive head, with its characteristically asymmetric face, attracted him both as a painter and as a man. For like all great portraitists, Picasso—he has said so himself—is concerned not with a physical or intellectual likeness, but with an emotional image— the "feel" of the subject. He spent several weeks painting Dora Maar in 1941; during that time her mother was dying, and knowing this certainly helps us to understand her expression in the portrait. Its coloring— the green-and-red-striped silk dress is shown against a blue background —characterizes a peculiar twilight state of the soul.
The fact that Picasso's artistic interests are determined by his natural, personal interests is again proven by his portraits of Françoise Gilot, whose full, symmetrical face appears in a great number of portraits and mythological figures dating from the post-war years.
Because Picasso is essentially Mediterranean by nature, he is less interested in landscapes than in figures. The occasions on which he did paint landscapes and his way of painting them are all the more significant. While he has treated landscape motifs in all his periods, he has done so, for the most part, intermittently and without any specific objective. He became much more interested in such motifs during the last war: being confined to Paris, he felt an urge to re-create the city in the period of its greatest distress. For this reason it seems legitimate to begin our discussion of Picasso's landscapes with a group of views of Paris executed between 1943 and 1945. More than three decades earlier Picasso had painted small oval views of the Ile de la Cité in the abstract style of "hermetic" Cubism. The later pictures too are relatively small, usually horizontal, rectangular views of the Seine (Picasso's apartment at 1 Boulevard Henri IV, like his studio in the Rue des Grands-Augustins, was situated near the river). The only vertical canvas in this group, a view of Notre-Dame seen through an arch of the Pont Saint-Michel, gives us a characteristic glimpse of his method: he freely combines several natural views into a new spatial organism.
It has been shown by means of photographs that a view of NotreDame such as Picasso gives us does not actually exist, and that his composition combines at least three different views. For instance, if one stands on the far side of the Pont Saint-Michel it is impossible to see Notre-Dame through an arch; and the next bridge, the Pont NotreDame, can be seen only if one is under the arch of the Pont Saint-Michel. The synthesis of the different views enhances rather than diminishes the individual characteristics of the object, even though the architectural motifs are extremely simplified. The Pont Saint-Michel with the wreath in the spandrel and the stone balustrade is as clearly recognizable as is the cathedral with its three western portals surmounted by pointed arches, its royal gallery, the large rose window and the arcades above it, the truncated towers, the flèche, and the flying buttresses of the south side.
Picasso used this method, in which the foreground serves as a frame for the distant view, in other landscapes, thus obtaining a compact composition. Back in 1924, in Juan-les-Pins, he had painted a seascape with the hills of the Corniche d'Or in the background, seen through a round opening between architectural and garden motifs: the effect is as though one looked through a porthole. While the parts of the picture that form the frame are entirely flat and decorative, the view of the hills produces an effect of depth. Here Picasso was certainly influenced by his experiences as a stage designer. Similarly, in the canvas The Studio Window, dated July 3, 1943, the background is compressed by a vaulted structure like the arch in the view of the Seine just mentioned. Sidney Janis compared the picture with a photograph of the same view, which shows that in reality neither the wall nor the water pipe bends toward the right, as they do in the painting.
The radiator with the curved pipe in front has acquired a kind of organic life, suggesting a monster lurking before the window which is conceived as a kind of cavern. The vertical part of the pipe leads to the rectilinear abstract forms of the wall and of the window whose ledges frame the background—a motif for which Max Beckmann had a particular predilection. But in Beckmann the out-of-doors appears as an overpowering, limitless world which besieges and oppresses man, whereas Picasso subjects the world of the rooftops to a stereometric order, which makes it seem less threatening than the familiar objects close by, such as the radiator. By faceting the roof forms, the experienced Cubist controls all the threatening, unruly elements, just as he had done a generation earlier. He used the same devices in his views of the Ile de la Cité of 1945, capturing the varied spatial effects of a historic city quarter in a system of rigidly controlled forms.
An oil canvas of February 1945, which is articulated into abstract light and dark planes, again shows Notre-Dame, this time not through an arch, but as part of a broad panorama. Here too the organization of the forms recalls the faceted structures of early Cubism, with this notable difference: the variously colored planes are not arranged so as to produce the effect of solid volumes, but are systemically geared together through long radial lines. The prominent geometric order of the picture now results in the subordination and deformation of the natural motifs. Not only bridges and houses, but also parts of the cathedral are arbitrarily distorted, and they merge with the forms of the church of Sacré-Cœur which is actually at a considerable distance. We are reminded here of the oil study of Sacré-Cœur surrounded by the roofs of Montmartre that Picasso painted in 1909, when Cubism was still in an early phase. Even in that early period he did not render a segment of reality, but—in line with his method of that time, which differs greatly from his method of 1945—inexorably subjected his scene to the compositional laws of his style at that time.
In a variation on the theme of the Cité, dated March 1, 1945, abstraction is considerably developed. The actual elements of the scene—the portals, the rose window, the flèche of Notre-Dame—are so completely dissolved in the design that only an expert can decipher them. The plane of the picture is covered with a web of vigorous radial lines which suggest a steel scaffolding centered on the circle atop the fèche. Picasso's method of articulating the picture surface by radial planes is perhaps best clarified by a comparison with the related and yet entirely different method used by Lyonel Feininger in his city views. Feininger too divides the plane by radial lines, but he invests the spatial layers and their complicated optical refractions with a disembodied transparency, beside which Picasso's scaffolding seems robust and material. Compared with Feininger's spiritualized reflection of the external world, Picasso's picture is a rigidly organized, independent, new creation, in which the original experience appears merely as le souvenir d'un souvenir.
Picasso correctly pointed out that there is no formal difference between such city views and his nudes or still life compositions. He said there was no good reason why "people should notice a nose drawn horizontally across a face, while a similarly distorted view of a bridge does not shock them" (conversation with Kahnweiler, September 9, 1944). Certain still life compositions showing a basket of fruit and a spice jar, dating from 1942 and 1943, actually offer striking stylistic parallels to the views of the Cité.
And just as Picasso distorts and dislocates faces in representations of human figures, he also distorts and displaces the cathedral and the bridges in a view of Notre-Dame dated April 14,1945. We know that the lavender coloring of this picture is the result of a visit he had recently made to a friend's lilac garden which filled him so completely with the sensation of this color that he imposed it on the alien motif of the Cité. This is characteristic of the way Picasso's art originates in personal experiences.
Pablo Picasso, Cubism, Pablo Picasso Biography, Picasso Paintings, Picasso Drawings, The Blue Nude, Don Quixote, Enamel Saucepan, Evening Flowers, Femme A La Fleur, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Spanish Art, The Dream, The Pigeons, Guernica, Musse, Bull with Bullfighter, Mediterranean Landscape, Nude and Still Life, Toros y Toreros, Mother and Child, Girl with Red Beret, Frau Mit Turban, The Bathers, The Lesson, The Old Guitarist, Three Bathers, Violin and Guitar, Lovers, Evening Flowers, The Kitchen