In a painting dated June 25, 1943, the so-called Le Vert-Galant, another Paris motif is treated—a little park at the western tip of the Cité near the Pont Neuf. Here the painter deliberately aims at a picturesque and decorative effect. Once again he bends the trees to form a kind of peephole through which the eye is led to the bridge with the statue of Henry IV (whose nickname, Le Galant, had been transferred to the park). The Cubist substance, as it still appears in the triangular facets at the bottom, is here subordinated to the flat decorative treatment of the powerful tree trunks, and particularly, of the ornamental oval forms of the foliage.
Here too it is possible to name earlier works as genetic foundations of the later synthesis. The flat, decorative design can be traced back to landscapes painted in Juanles-Pins in 1920, whose collage-like surface structure represents a variant of Synthetic Cubism. A characteristic detail is provided by the almond-shaped sun with its jagged corona, a motif strikingly similar to the central light in Guernica. As for the spatial treatment, the tree forms and the peculiar crowns of spiky leaves in Le Vert-Galant, which are reminiscent of Van Gogh, can be compared to the pastel landscape of Fontainebleau, of 1921. The feeling for simple, monumental form and the sculptural modeling of this pastel readily disclose its relationship to the gigantic women of the same period.
The style of Le Vert-Galant with its rounded treetops and Cubist triangular planes reappears in 1946, in the almost playfully ornamental gouache landscapes of Ménerbes (Vaucluse), which are closer to the "collage" than to the "radial-plane" type. At times these compositions remind us of Paul Klee, the magician who conjured up unreal landscapes for spiritual promenades; but beside his subtle, northern-oriental fantasy, Picasso's art seems popular, robust, indeed, almost naturalistic! Even in 1951, at Vallauris, Picasso's landscapes were for the most part small and decorative. The main motif is usually a narrow, many-storied villa surrounded by lemon and orange trees, whose fruits glow in the dark greenery; the spatial structure is influenced by the Café painted at Royan in August 1940.
But at the same time Vallauris saw the emergence of an entirely different landscape style. It was at Vallauris that Picasso discovered the beauty of southern winter scenes, and captured this previously unexplored beauty in, for example, the relatively large oil dated December 22, 1950. It does not show a magically unreal snow scene, but portrays nature at its most forlorn and desolate: nature devoid of all sensual adornment, all luminous colors, even of the festive blue of the sky. More than any other, this picture of solitude, soledad, reveals Picasso's Spanish soul. The leafless olive trees expressively stretch their bare branches toward the gray sky, as though in extreme despair; their ugly contorted forms are arranged beside each other in harsh light grays and dark browns.
The same withered quality appears in the brown palm tree which, in the middle distance, looms against the impenetrable sky. Brown, too, is the soil in the foreground, which gives the effect of a huge, gaping wound, while the gray reappears in the dead surfaces broken only by an occasional window of the horizon. Only in the scarcely protruding roof of the house at the right is there a bit of glowing red. But the furrowed planes of the middle ground extend their mournful, passive green over the entire width of the picture. The murky, dull harmony of gray, brown, and green reflects the tormented desolation of wintry nature, whose cry to the overcast sky is very much like that of the human figures in Guernica.
If we analyze the formal elements of this strikingly expressive landscape, we discover here too instructive preliminary stages. For instance, the anthropomorphic gestures of the tree branches derive formally from Cubist abstractions, as a glance at the tree forms in the owl pictures of January 1947 shows. Picasso had made similar Cubist studies of tree trunks as early as 1944, and these in turn are based on vivid drawings made two decades earlier. In his copy of Poussin, which also dates from 1944, and which will be discussed in the next chapter, the trees in the old master's painting are reinterpreted in the same way.
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