Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

18
CRISIS OF MARRIAGE
1924-1926

The Surrealists allotted the autumn of 1924 to the sign of provocation. The death of Anatole France, Academician venerated by the Left and recent recruit to the Communist party, occasioned the pamphlet Un Cadavre. In the pamphlet Aragon asks: "Have you already slapped a dead man?" And Breton states, "A small part of human servility has gone." At just that moment Breton also published the Manifeste du surréalisme and in December brought out the first issue of a new review: la Révolution surréaliste.

Picasso was represented by a photograph of his assemblage Guitare: folded, painted metal, tin, and wire—probably taken from the sets for Mercure—and by the notebook of abstract drawings of Juan-les-Pins. Picasso's presence in that publication, at that moment, was on the face of it a thumbing of the nose at the beau monde so dear to Olga. The Surrealists were in the throes of vehement radicalization and would soon be seeking "revolution," in close alliance with the Communist party, at the time a sectarian group with dreams of "bolshevizing." Moreover, because of Un Cadavre, Jacques Doucet banned Breton and Aragon from his circle of intimates.

None of this, however, kept les Demoiselles d'Avignon from joining Doucet's collection in December, as planned. Breton produced a triumphal paean to escort it.

Here is the painting which would be promenaded through the streets of our capital, like a Cimabue Virgin of former times, if skepticism hadn't triumphed over the great private virtues by which, in spite of everything, this period has agreed to live. It seems to me impossible to speak of this painting with anything other than reverence.... The Demoiselles d'Avignon defy analysis, and the laws of this vast composition cannot be formulated. For me it is a pure symbol, ... an intense projection of that modern ideal which we are able to grasp only by degrees. In mystical terms, with this painting we bid farewell to all the paintings of the past. 1

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