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Pablo’s Muse

from the New York Times

Picasso in Lust and Ambition

Librado Romero/The New York Times

Picasso’s ‘Marie-Thérèse,’ featuring work like “Nude on a Black Armchair” (1932) and other portraits of his muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, is at Acquavella Galleries.

Picasso was one of 20th-century art’s major makers and shapers. He was also one of its most prolific purveyors of kitsch. I would place a high percentage of his output in the kitsch category. That would include some of the dozen closely related paintings in the exhibition “Picasso’s ‘Marie-Thérèse’ ” at Acquavella Galleries.

The paintings at Acquavella, all done in or around 1932, have several narratives going for them; the first and most familiar, and the one people seem to love best, is called “Picasso in Love,” subtitled “Love (or Lust) as the Wellspring of Art.” The erotic muse in this case was Marie-Thérèse Walter, a French teenager whom Picasso met and sweet-talked on a Paris street in 1927, when he was 45 and married. Soon they were lovers. He found himself rejuvenated, walking on air. He painted many pictures using her as a model. Some are in the show.

The rest of the story is not so happy. In 1935 Marie-Thérèse had his child, but Picasso’s attention wandered. He found other mistresses and new wives, though he kept in affectionate touch with Ms. Walter through the years. Four years after he died, she committed suicide.

Then there’s another tale, less about love, more about art. In Paris in 1931 Picasso saw a retrospective of his rival Henri Matisse and instantly decided that he, too, had to have a retrospective, a big one in Paris, within a year. And it would not freeze him in the past but project him into the present as the vital, fertile, better-than-ever artist he considered himself to be.

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Posted on October 24, 2008 by Editor

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