Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

15
RETURN TO ORDER
1918-Early 1920

n early 1918 Picasso was a celebrated unknown. With the exception of his old bande, which essentially meant Max Jacob and Apollinaire, no one had followed the course of his artistic evolution. Work from before the stay in Avignon remained firmly sequestered in Kahnweiler's gallery; the rest had hardly been shown. Parade was considered a rejection of Cubism, and Olga encouraged him to give up the Montparnasse cafés. At this juncture news spread which made him a traitor in the eyes of the militant Cubists. Paul Guillaume, the ambitious young dealer who sold African art and works by Derain and Modigliani and who commissioned prefaces from Apollinaire, was planning a Matisse-Picasso exhibition in his gallery, from 23 January to 15 February 1918. The gallery, at 118 rue la Boétie, was an instance of the trend which was shifting the art market in the direction of the Champs-Élysées. 1

Unfortunately the catalogue from the show does not identify individual works. As well as some rose and blue Picassos, the show probably included Portrait de jeune fille from Avignon and Arlequin et femme au collier, painted in Rome. The numerous heads and still lifes referred to by the catalogue probably belong to what Vauxcelles designated "the latest works of a formidable Cubism." The show was, in fact, a collection of available works by both painters and not intended as a confrontation of any kind.

Picasso probably had no wish to delve deeply into work which was under way. He gave the impression at the time of checking over every route he had ever tried, passing back and forth from one to another. Work of this time includes purified still lifes with guitar, glass, pipe, and tobacco packet, stylized to the limits of abstraction; geometrized women; resumptions of canvases left incomplete in Avignon; a classic landscape which would be used in the ballet Tricorne (Three-Cornered Hat); and a transcription in Seurat-style pointillism of Le Nain's Retour du baptême—all evidence of a fundamental reconsideration of painting's methods. Apollinaire was an interested party, as we know from a letter of 22 August 1918 made public at the time of bequest: "I would like to see you do some big pictures like

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