Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview
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Summer 1914-1916

No one in Picasso's circle actually witnessed the war's arrival. Alice and Gertrude Stein were caught in London; Kahnweiler was climbing a mountain in Bavaria. "All my life," Kahnweiler explains, "had been based on the assumption that the war would not happen. Until the very last minute, I refused to believe in it.... During the night of 30 July, we beat a hasty retreat—I didn't want to be stuck in Wilhelm's army—and were able to cross the Swiss frontier." On 2 August he arrived in Rome, which was still neutral. He was very quickly to find himself without a penny; his Paris gallery was closed, and all the paintings he had sent to Germany were confiscated because of his refractory attitude toward military call-up.

Overnight Picasso lost all possibility of sales. True to habit, he wrapped himself in work; but color had fled along with happiness, and he took no risks. He moved on to a Cubism which was rigorous, cold, and—to the extent that it was no longer adventurous—classic.

From a letter of 14 November to Gertrude Stein, we know that he and Éva were preparing to return to Paris. On the 30th Max Jacob writes to Maurice Raynal, who has been mobilized, "Picasso's return is marked by pure lines, replacing the vulgarities of nature," a remark which could apply equally to the darkened still lifes and to the fantasy canvases.

Juan Gris informs Kahnweiler on 30 October, "Matisse writes from Paris ... that Picasso withdrew a large sum—they say 100,000 Fr.—from a bank in Paris at the outbreak of the war." What is certain is that Picasso was considering his professional situation. He asked André Level, whom he had known since 1906-7, when the latter had made his first purchases for la Peau de l'Ours, to intervene on his behalf with the sequestration administrator of the Kahnweiler gallery so that he might recover his pictures. These overtures, however, proved fruitless. Picasso was angry at Kahnweiler for failing to take precautions. He was trying to do what he could, but felt very much alone. 1

Apollinaire, in Nice, was making urgent efforts to join the colors. Picasso told me later that Apollinaire hoped in this way to cleanse his honor


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