Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

24
SPAIN AT HEART
1936-1937

Picasso was now—with the exception of Gonzalez—the senior figure of his bande. Christian Zervos was born in 1889; Éluard, in 1896; and Dora, née Markovitch, on 22 November 1907 in Tours. The child of a Yugoslavian father and a French mother, she had spent her adolescent years in Argentina and was fluent in Spanish. As a photographer beginning to work in cinema with Louis Chavance, she attached herself to the Surrealists in 1934. A recollection of 1935 in Marcel Duhamel's memoirs catches her as she pursues a particularly taxing piece of reportage in a mountain mine. Her character, in his view, was overwhelmingly defined by its leading quality: "cabocharde" (stubborn). "Inclined to storms—with thunder and lightning" was how Georges Bataille put it. According to Michel Surya, Georges Bataille's biographer, she was Bataille's mistress at the end of 1933 and early 1934, and in the wake of that experience, tended to favor the more radical solutions—for private life as well as for politics. In short, she was in every way an opposite to Marie-Thérèse, with her placid temperament and indifference to art.

Nusch, born in Mulhouse in 1906, began as an actress in Germany, playing small parts (especially old women) in Strindberg's plays and posing for postcards. She came to Paris, where she led a life of crushing poverty. She was working for the Grand Guignol when Éluard met her in December 1929. They were married in August 1934.

Although the Popular Front won a solid victory in the elections of May 1936, the interim period before the new government took power was a time of unprecedented strikes. These were more widespread and more violent than any in the history of the country and came to an end only with the accords signed on 7 June. Picasso and Éluard during this time seemed to be living in another world. Picasso's engravings of the time—beginning with the poem Grand Air—were done as an accompaniment to the collection les Yeux fertiles. The book, which included poems he himself had inspired, was illustrated by Man Ray with admirable photographs of the nude Nusch.

None of this, however, prevented Picasso from painting, on 28 May,

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