On February 14, 1955, when Picasso completed the final version of The Woman of Algiers (O version), he replied to his friend: “I have inherited the women depicted by Matisse. Although I have not been to the East yet, I still have my impression of that place.” Why did Picasso ardently love the Oriental art? As Asian art workers , we attended the Picasso Blue Period exhibition with curiosity at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The exhibition began on Oct. 6, 2021 and will last for 100 days. The paintings are mainly focused on the period from 1901 to 1906 in this exhibition. Picasso created a series of works in blue hue, innovating by incorporating Matisse, Cezanne, Rodin and Asian art elements including Chinese calligraphy.
Stepping into the first exhibition hall, We saw the paitings, the first one on the right is a man with a bowler hat. The young talented painter deliberately avoids the feeling of light and depth. The brushstrokes are rough and strong. The lines with the sense of Chinese calligraphy are outlined and rubbed. The long lines are varied and flexible. The dots and surfaces are floating and elegant. Tough and neat as the gentle man in the center contrasted with graceful ladies around.
《蓝色房间》创作于毕加索20岁左右，是他转型到蓝色时期一幅很重要的作品，而从他的画中我们也可以一窥年轻的天才画家在摸索风格的初期是怎么向其他大师学习的。在《蓝色房间》我们可以看到一张Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec创作的海报 MAY MILTON，尽管二位从未相见，毕加索还是在自己的画作重复使用蓝、黄和白色的色调，以此表达对Lautrec的怀念。
The Blue Room was created by Picasso around the age of 20. It is a very important work during his transition to the blue period. From his paintings, we can also get a glimpse of the young talented painter’s initial exploration of the style, learning from other masters. In The Blue Room, we can see the poster May Milton created by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Although the two painters never met, Picasso still used blue, yellow and white tones in his paintings repeatedly to express his respect to Lautrec.
And in the central scene where the nude model takes a bath in the studio, the posture model stands on her legs with her arms wrapped around the body, and her heads lightly turned sideways, indicating the influence of Rodin’s sculpture Eve.
The wrinkles on the white quilt behind the female model in The Blue Room and the traces on the girl’s dress in the post are all different from the lines formed by the transition of two blocks in traditional Western painting. They are consciously and deliberately created with high quality. The fluttering dress makes us imagine the charm of Wu Daozi, who is known as the painting saint of “Wu belt as style”(A traditional Chinese painting method to depict clothes).
Picasso once said, “I started to use blue hue because of the thought of Casagemas”. The death of his best friend, the icy coldness under the glitz of Paris, and the doubt to himself might be the dull theme of the blue period. The shadow of Matisse can also be seen in the paintings at that time. In his early 20s, Picasso was concerned about the hardships of poor people in the slums. He portrayed various figures from the bottom of society. These people are skinny, thrown to the edge by society, but still lived with freedom and dignity. At that time, the pleats of the characters and the lines of the waves in the background had a deeper expression than before. These lines are dull and sad, which maybe also the mood of the painter.
And in 1904, Picasso returned to Paris from Barcelona, where he met his first lover Fernand. The nourishment of love rejuvenated Picasso’s torn heart and liberated him from the quagmire of life. The blue barrier was broken, and bright colors gradually appeared on his palette—Picasso’s creation entered the next transitional period: the rose period. Among the works in the rose period exhibited this time, two naked women with long hair are particularly eye-catching.
The finale of this exhibition (as above) is hung in the center of the exhibition hall. The woman in the painting has long curly hair. The lines are short and curly, and the arrangement is chaotic and orderly, showing Picasso’s extraordinary ability to control strokes. We can’t help associating this with what Picasso said 50 years (1956) later when he met Zhang Daqian: “If I live in China, I must be a calligrapher instead of a painter.”
When we watched this exhibition, we felt deeply bathed in the “East Wind” 120 years ago. As Asian art workers living in North America, we still have a long way to go.