Pablo Picasso’s artistic holiday in Holland


Pablo Picasso, La belle Hollandaise

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

How peasant girls and Dutch dunes inspired Picasso

Today, 20:50

He rarely went on vacation, but in 1905 he clearly needed it. The 23-year-old Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) fled the heat and bustle of Paris. To this rare vacation the Alkmaar Municipal Museum is dedicating an exhibition.

Picasso was staying for several weeks in Schoorl, at the cottage of his acquaintance Tom Schilperoort. He knew the Dutchman from Paris. The self-styled bohemian and journalist had seen it correctly: Picasso craved inspiration.

Cheese market

He worked on his famous Famille de Saltimbanques. The composition and the background he did not like, but how should he change that? He was not sure yet. With in his luggage a sketchbook, brush and some paint he took the train and in Alkmaar he got out. Probably in June and almost certainly on a Friday when the cheese market is.

Pyramids of cheese: he will remember them years later in amazement. Just like the Dutch women. Tall and glowing with health.

Picasso walked through Alkmaar. “It was a provincial town where the farmers did their shopping,” says historian Gerrit Valk, who has done years of research into the fascinating Holland weeks of the master. “There were many women in West Frisian costume.” White caps, skirts, clogs come back in the sketches that Picasso makes. As a tourist he draws the windmills, the stepped gables of the houses along the canals of Alkmaar and a visitor with a prostitute in a brothel in Alkmaar.

The cottage in Schoorl is gone, but there exists a picture of the interior with Schilperoort, Picasso and a certain Nelly. Most likely she was Petronella Timmer, who kept the cottages clean. In the seaside village Picasso is impressed by the light, the dunes and the color of the sand and arid pasture.

About the women he would say later that they rolled off the dunes. He probably has seen the traditional ‘girls market’, where the peasant girls danced and drank and rolled while flirting off the dunes they had climbed and started dating.

The summer-house was too stuffy for Picasso, so he rented a room in Schoorldam. He is found much in the local pub Lands Welvaren. There a special chair was bought for him without arm rests, as these bothered him while drawing. After the departure of Picasso the chair disappeared into the attic, but it remained in the family.

Recently, the Picasso chair was donated to the Stedelijk Museum Alkmaar. This was for director Lidewij de Koekkoek the stimulus to make a long-cherished wish come true. To make a modest exhibition on the holiday of the world famous painter.

“This is a dream come true,” she says radiantly as the nude La Belle Hollandaise is unzipped with utmost care. An employee of the museum in Brisbane, Australia supervises and controls the work, every square centimeter of it, before it can hang. It is put alongside the other gouache Picasso made in West Friesland Les Trois Hollandaises from the Picasso Museum in Paris. We have to guess who the three women are. Possibly, it is always the same woman, but then in a different position.

Picasso, Les trois Hollandaises

Clothes off

Even more interesting would be to know who was the model for the nude. In prudish West Friesland a girl took her clothes off in front of Picasso and kept only her white lace cap on. Lidewij de Koekkoek sees the work for the first time and is moved by it. Now that it hangs, all sorts of details become remarkable. The dreamy look in her eyes. Was she in love? Was the Spanish painter her lover? And the way the girl bends the fingers of her hand, does she indicate that she is pregnant?

Picasso’s holiday in Holland lasted only a few weeks. But short as that was, the period had an influence on his development as an artist. After his return he finished the world famous painting of the acrobat family Famille de Saltimbanques. The background was changed: he put the circus artists in a dune landscape. In the background there are unmistakably dunes such as near the North Sea beach.

The exhibition Picasso in Holland is until 28 August at the Stedelijk Museum in Alkmaar.

Famille de saltimbanques, by Picasso

Rupert Murdoch censors Pablo Picasso


Tiepolo, La Verità svelata dal Tempo, uncensored version

In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi was Prime Minister of Italy. He had become a rich man by television shows full of women with hardly any clothes on. Still, Berlusconi censored a painting by the 18th-century Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Berlusconi censored it because on that painting there was a woman (symbolizing Truth) with a naked breast. That breast was censored.

Berlusconi used to be friends with Rupert Murdoch then. Not anymore later. Like Rupert Murdoch also used to be pals with Tony Blair. But he also quarreled with Blair later.

Still, Murdoch has quite some things in common with Berlusconi. Including, as boss of Fox News, censoring women’s breasts from famous paintings.

From Newsweek in the USA:

Art critic rips ‘sexually sick conservatives’ after Fox channel blurs out breasts on Picasso painting

14 May 2015 at 15:06 ET

Lucy Westcott
Posted with permission from Newsweek

The Women of Algiers (Version “O”), a painting by Pablo Picasso, became the most expensive work to ever sell at an auction this week. Sadly, some TV viewers of a New York affiliate of Fox were treated to a blurry, G-rated version.

The painting, which sold for $179.4 million at Christie’s auction house in New York on Monday night, shows several female figures in the Cubist style, including several pairs of breasts and a couple of errant nipples. Fox 5, the Fox affiliate in New York City, obscured three pairs of breasts and covered up two nipples with a news banner at the bottom of the screen.

Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, in censored Rupert Murdoch version

The decision by Fox 5 to blur part of the female anatomy was blasted by Jerry Saltz, senior art critic for New York magazine, who took to Twitter on Wednesday night.

“How sexually sick are conservatives & Fox News? They blurred parts of the Picasso painting,” he tweeted, adding the hashtag #SickMinds. …

The 1955 painting, which Picasso began in 1954, was sold after 11 minutes of bidding, the BBC reports. The final price, including a 12 percent commission fee, was $179.4 million, beating the previous world record of $142.2 million set in 2013 by Francis Bacon’s painting Three Studies of Lucien Freud. The final price for The Women of Algiers (Version “O”) far surpassed the original estimate of $140 million.

Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, uncensored version, at the auction

The Spanish civil war and British artists


This video is called Pablo Picasso – Guernica (1937).

By Christine Lindey in Britain:

Exhibition Review: Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish civil war

Tuesday 25th November 2014

CHRISTINE LINDEY recommends an exhibition of art inspired by the Spanish civil war

THE momentous interwar years between 1918 and 1939 galvanised British artists into political commitment. Inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, and appalled by the rise of fascism and the deprivation caused by the great depression, many turned to the left. Defence of the Spanish republic against the 1936 fascist insurrection united the anti-fascist peace movement.

This exhibition about British artists’ responses to the Spanish civil war highlights wider 1930s political and aesthetic debates. Art historian Roger Fry’s dominant ideology of “art for art’s sake” was contested by calls for politically engaged art by socialist and communist artists.

While working as an illustrator in the USSR in the early 1930s Cliff Rowe was impressed by its cultural policies. On returning home he founded the Artists International in 1933. It called for “the international unity of artists against imperialist war on the Soviet Union, fascism and colonial oppression” and its purpose was to spread this message through posters, banners, illustrations, exhibitions, meetings and lectures.

The following year it was equipped with a politically milder slogan and renamed the Artists International Association (AIA). Its membership grew rapidly and in 1936-9 it became the main focus for artists’ defence of Spain by raising public consciousness and funds.

Some artists argued for direct action and Felicia Browne, Julian Bell and Clive Branson fought in the International Brigade. Only Branson survived.

Felicia Browne, self-portrait

Browne, at the age of 32, was the first British volunteer killed in battle and in her self-portrait she returns our gaze squarely as a woman belligerently defiant of social convention.

She became a posthumous communist hero as commemorative exhibitions and publications of her uncompromisingly decisive drawings of Spanish militiamen and women raised money for Spain.

Other artists argued that creating propaganda was more useful and several rejected easel painting in favour of public arts as more effective tools of socio-political change.

The exhibition includes the AIA’s modernist banner for the British battalion of the International Brigade created by James Lucas, Phyllis Ladyman and Betty Rea, James Boswell’s illustrations for Left Review and Felicity Ashbee’s posters. The latter’s emotive portrayals of desperate war victims combine accessible figurative drawing with expressionist exaggeration such as enlarged pleading eyes and skeletal hands. The London County Council provided 22 large hoardings which AIA artists painted in public, so raising media and public awareness for Aid for Spain as they worked.

Other artists conveyed their beliefs through traditional means. Henry Rayner’s powerful print There is No Shelter chillingly reveals the mercilessness of aerial bombing. Of the several figures huddling for safety under a giant umbrella, the one holding it up turns out to be death personified as a skeleton.

Branson’s socialist-realist paintings stemmed from his communist desire to reach a wide audience. His Demonstration in Battersea (1939) celebrates collective action as demonstrators set off with communist and republican flags and banners amid the working-class district’s terrace housing, gasworks and factories.

Some British surrealists also opposed fascism and contributed imaginative masks and costumes to the 1938 May Day procession. Finding and exhibiting two of these props is a real scoop. Yet the meanings of most of their works — such as Stanley Hayter’s — are so elliptical or ambiguous that it is not clear that they refer to Spain, nor indeed even to antimilitarism.

The enervated forms and distorted figures in his Paysage Anthropophage (1937) could equally refer to personal or psychological anguish or to conflicts between unspecified humans or animals. In the 1930, when academic art still dominated, their adherence to abstracted or imaginary motifs were largely incompressible to most people.

Picasso also used modernist distortions in his Guernica canvas of 1937 but the motifs, such as the distraught woman running while carrying her dead child, and the bull as symbol of Spain make the painting’s meaning clear. It toured Britain with related works to raise funds for Spanish Relief in 1938, when it made a massive impression on British artists.

That exhibition’s catalogue is on show, along with Picasso’s Crying Woman and his satirical print The Dream of Franco alongside British works influenced by Guernica, such as FE McWilliam’s Spanish Head, with its anguished gaping mouth and carnivorous teeth.

Also displayed is the recent recreating of Guernica as a large banner in Pallant House. It was stitched by a collective including political refugees, anti-fascists and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to express the continuing need to protest against war and political oppression.

Together with its catalogue, this informative and well-researched exhibition of art, documentation and rare memorabilia makes a valuable contribution to knowledge about 1930s British politically aware art.

It rather overemphasises surrealists and modernists but it refrains from taking the all-too-common patronising attitude to artists with communist and socialist convictions.

It will hopefully galvanise a new generation to create politically committed art.

Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish civil war runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until February 2015. Free. Details: www.pallant.org.uk

Conscience and Conflict is the first major exhibition to look at the response of British artists to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939): here.

No Other Way: Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War 1936-39 by Chris Farman, Valery Rose and Liz Woolley (Oxford IBMC, £8): review here.