"Solitudes" is the title of the last, unfinished work by Gongora.The deepest significance one can give to this strange title is that of a universe emptied by the poet of everything that is not art, a universe without living beings or things, except the signs which are his supreme companions. Soledades, this is for the Cordovan poet the bare setting for pure poetry. In popular Spanish music the gipsy meaning of this word denotes one of the forms of couplets in the cante jondo, the deep chant.
Besides, solitudes have a meaning in our religious and Jansenist language, thus forming a connection with the domain of Spanish mystics. The solitudes of poetry, of song and of nature... The solitudes of the spirit... In fact the empty place chosen by the spirit in order to people it with the expansions of its own imagination. And the spirit, too, creates an empty space within, collects itself, becomes abstract, always employing the most rigourous methods of exhaustion, and then awaits the surge. It was on account of its solitude that Philip II chose the Escorial as a site for his palace and his mausoleum, and as a capital for his meditation. There is a poem by Lope de Vega which begins with these lines :
From my solitudes I come,
To my solitudes I will return...
It is always necessary to set out from solitude if one wishes to understand the Spanish genius. Pablo Picasso is no exception to this rule. In order to enter into true communion with his art we must envisage a tabula rasa, absolute emptiness, a place without features. What can the painting of a man, who is absolutely solitary, be like? The painting of Picasso answers this query. His first purpose, perhaps, would be to satisfy the hypothesis launched by some demon at some moment of time. To those spirits who are not satisfied by his painting, to whom it does not appear necessary, one might reply that it is not entirely lost ; at least it accords with the caprice of a possible hypothesis amid the immense mass of causes and reasons.
No man I have ever met gives me so startling an impression of solitude as Picasso, in spite of his extraordinary celebrity. Undoubtedly his name arouses echoes of enthusiasm or abuse in the entire universe. No one is indifferent to him. The whole world responds. And yet Picasso appears to me to be the loneliest man on earth. There is no familiar face beside him. His friends seem to have been his friends mainly in order that it might be said that they took part in some unusual adventure of the spirit with him ; that is to say they were only his friends in the legend. Even those who survived this period of conspiracy and alchemy and have continued their careers on their own account, when one thinks of them as they were at that time, appear in the form of phantoms. After having passed this spectral zone, and been illuminated by its mythical glory, they have been reincarnated and have continued to enjoy a warmer and more natural fame. Picasso, on the other hand, has remained in his domain of phantoms. He has remained on the clear altitudes of estrangement.
There is no one like him for creating solitude. It seems the very air of Spain is engulfed with him in his studio. Whenever he establishes himself in a flat in the heart of Paris, it appears that the most ordinary windows and mantlepieces, the plaster of the ceiling, the fire-tongs, the cold lines of the parquet in this house take on some unusual form in accordance with the fetish that his fingers are creating at the moment. When he moves to an upper floor of some old house on the left bank of the Seine he has only to spread an enormous mat and place an old-fashioned sofa there in order to enlarge the space to infinity, conjuring up a landscape full of abrupt disorder and abandonment, almost a desert.
But the most extraordinary of Picasso's solitudes is that of his own work, for he has destroyed at the very moment of their birth, the figures which would have peopled it and might have been his companions. He has rejected the friendship of his creatures to which he might have become accustomed. In this respect his solitude may be compared to that of the poet Gongora. Picasso's spiritual course proceeds from a similar pride, — a stoical and disdainful shrug of the shoulders, rejecting everything that is only of passing value. The subject of a poem is but of passing value to the poet, it cannot remain in his life and in his thought, since it consists of the thread of ordinary people's lives, who are so weak as to need this constant company. It is enough for the poet to retain nothing but the gesture by which he has divested himself.
Picasso has often been reproached for his successive transformations. They have been said to prove his lack of unity, of personality and of genius, — his nullity. Only one who has never tasted the bitter delights of deep and indifferent solitude can fail to understand that it is just these successive transformations which reveal the solitary essence of Picasso's unity, his personality, his genius, his reality.
We sometimes speak of this or that artist's "universe" — meaning the usual setting of his work, the intimate landscape which he always carries with him, in which he finds himself and steeps himself. Picasso has no universe. Or we may say his universe is a vast solitude, where unexpected vegetation grows and ripens ; or rather a series of solitudes, which are metamorphosed one into another, substituting themselves for each other. And it seems that he has never turned back. There is no interference between his enclosed, absolutely heterogenous centres. Picasso retains no homesickness for or memory of the worlds he has thus at one time inhabited, but which appeared to him less and less habitable.
As though to prevent his regretting the forms which arose and disappeared in turn, Picasso seems to try to make them more and more unusual and hostile. They must not seduce him. They must not enchant him and disturb his isolation. They must not be able to last. Whenever they run the risk of becoming durable by their recognizable or moving aspect, when they run the risk of attracting the spirit by their legible character, or attracting the heart by their tenderness, then a movement of horror appears, a sudden rage by which Picasso turns away and repells us.
This has happened ever since the period of his youth, when Picasso still affected a certain naturalism and had not discovered the intellectual combinations, which raised the first barrier between his inventions and the possible. Take for example his pictures of racing, of the circus, of women, of the Toulouse-Lautrec period, — all of which could be called the Fin de Siècle period, with fashions that are dear to us, and an acid climate common to many minds of that day ; or take the very Catalan figures of the Blue period, with their decorative style, nudity and emotion, which can be easily classified and identified ; or the families of acrobats of the Pink period, — all this work of his youth, where intellectual speculation had not yet intervened so imperiously, exercises a direct fascination upon us.
We can easily imagine that this is the author's universe, a universe consisting of simple forms, where a deeply moving sense of pity reigns and stylization plays its part together with the feeling for humanity. There would seem to be enough material here to satisfy the artist and his public for the rest of his career. He might have established himself among us with his heart-rending mothers, his emaciated youths, his tall harlequins and tragic vagabonds. All this may seem possible and durable. But Picasso's destiny is to break with the possible and the durable and to abolish them in the great wind of solitude — " always recommencing " like the sea of the poet. There was something intolerable in the sentiment conveyed to us by his first companions.
There was poison in the pity they aroused in us ; something atrocious and monstrous. It was inevitable that the instability, the catastrophe and the scandal which marked his subsequent periods should have been foretold in this way. This strange type of artist, instead of seeking a formula, like all other artists do, that is to say a contact with universal laws, with reason and the hearts of men, never halts until he has broken these contacts, preserving for himself nothing but the bitterness of a breathless and magnificent solitude.
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