Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview
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10
THE CUBIST EXPLOSION
Summer 1911-1912

The press album of the Kahnweiler Gallery—at the time a novelty as great as the systematic photographing of paintings 1—indicates that it was the Salon d'Automne of 1911 which provided the official recognition of Cubism and, paradoxically, of Picasso as well. Although he was absent, as he had been from the Salon des Indépendants in the spring, he was nonetheless recognized as the "master" of the movement and a driving force of change.

This success was due first of all to Kahnweiler's policy of export, which had sent Picassos to Berlin and Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam. Clovis Sagot, too, had lent pictures to London. And then there were the activities of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. Their liaison had begun in earnest in 1908 but was kept an impenetrable secret. As Linda Simon remarks: "Gertrude and Alice were polite ladies, and Queen Victoria had been dead for only seven years." Alice played the part of impresario, in the first instance to publicize the work of her friend. Picasso, however, was to benefit from these efforts as well. It was through Alice that Gelett Burgess, whom she had known in San Francisco, made his way to the Bateau-Lavoir.

Max Weber, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz also discovered Picasso by way of the rue Fleurus. This led to the exhibition organized by Marius de Zayas at the Photo-Secession Gallery, 291 Fifth Avenue, New York: eighty-three drawings and watercolors from 1905 to the end of 1910. The show, which ran from 28 March to 25 April 1911, was the first Picasso trajectory to be shown as a whole, anywhere in the world. Marius de Zayas did his best to provide a critical examination of the pictures in an essay published by the magazine Camera Work. Although the piece was often inaccurate, Picasso nonetheless was becoming an object of discussion. In August John Middleton Murry wrote a piece for his review, Rhythm, which had wide repercussions: suddenly the Anglo-Saxon press was examining Picasso, considering his part in the uproar of the Salon d'Automne. On 8 November the New York Times credited him with "a colossal audacity." The article was accompanied by a photograph taken from Burgess's piece, which shows Picasso in his studio with sculptures from New Caledonia.

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