Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview
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33
TURNING POINT
1954-1956

And now, as if in response to a basic and private decision, the rest of life seemed to be shifting, readjusting. Works shown at the Museum of Modern Art retrospective of 1939 were repatriated from New York, giving Picasso the opportunity—after a lapse of fifteen years—to look again at these high points of his revolutionary trajectory. He had a first taste of crowd worship at the annual sale of the National Committee of Writers, which he attended to sign copies of the book made from la Guerre et la Paix. The public-Communists and fellow travelers— gave him a hero's welcome.

On the other hand, there were the deaths of friends—the growing price which age must pay. First of all, Derain, who was knocked down by a car. Certainly, differences of public attitude had divided them, like Derain's trip to Weimar during the Occupation, sponsored by Nazi propaganda authorities. But Picasso wished to remember above all his friend and fellow artist of 1906-14, especially as Matisse, the eldest of a trio in those young days, was dying. Maurice Raynal, a critic who had begun writing during that increasingly remote time and had just finished Picasso's biography, and the sculptor Henri Laurens, another younger man, were the first to vanish.

And then on 3 November Marguerite Duthuit telephoned the news he had been dreading: Matisse had just died. Pablo did not take the message himself because, as far back as the death of Apollinaire, he found the telephone physically unbearable as a medium for transmitting news of a death in his group of friends. And in any case, words could not express his feelings at this definitive break in dialogue with his elder friend. Whenever he visited the Midi, he had gone to see Matisse at the Regina in Nice. And whenever visitors broached the subject of modern painting, he invariably remarked that "basically, there's just Matisse." Matisse was the only painter he recognized as a rival. Over the years the two of them had made a team of sorts—a cordée—as he had done with Braque. But the object with Matisse had been a secure grasp on the new territory seized and explored by painting rather than a scaling and conquering of previously unknown heights.

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