Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview
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32
QUESTIONING EVERYTHING
1953-1954

There are never "proofs" of genius, only fleeting insights and perceptions. And among these, the more indirect, the harder to quantify may be the most valuable. In Picasso's life there had been many significant changes. His chauffeur, Marcel, confidant of many an escapade, had been dismissed. Paulo was now filling that position with virtuosic dexterity. The Oldsmobile once bartered by Sam Kootz for a painting had been replaced by a black Hotchkiss. And there was a bevy of women under the impression that Françoise's position was up for grabs. Once the various automobiles of visiting ladies had been cleared from the chemin des Mauruches, which led to la Galloise, Picasso, laughing with pleasure, would burst from the house and climb into my minuscule Renault ni vu, ni connu (neither seen, nor recognized). This piece of byplay gave me access to some of the feelings he entertained when face to face with himself.

Over the course of years I had begun to understand these a little when the double void created by the departure of Françoise and the affair of the Portrait de Staline led him to a particular appreciation of friends like Hélène Parmelin and Pignon and André Verdet, a poet who lived in Saint-Paul-de‐ Vence. Maya, then nearly eighteen, became the mistress of la Galloise, and Pablo reconstituted a family life there. There were also tribal excursions to the bullfights in Arles or simply to the Colombe d'Or in Saint-Paul.

These fluctuations in his personal life took Picasso back to his earlier season in hell, in 1935. This return to the past was in effect a closing of parentheses around the period of political engagement in his life: debates with Éluard and Dora and membership in the Communist party. He was not "depoliticized," like Baudelaire after 1848; but he had reached a vantage point above the fray, a posture he did not occupy at the time of the Massacres en Corée or even of la Guerre et la Paix. The outcry over the Portrait de Staline had exposed a great many people for what they were; but it had also brought into the light of day many things which Picasso had separated from issues of the war itself, because he had come to think of his painting as a form of participation in battle. He now had to balance his accounts, after eight years of living with Françoise, and at the same time

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