Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview
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34
AGAIN INTO THE UNKNOWN
1957-1958

Since his major period of ceramics, Picasso's sculptural inventiveness had been flourishing. Between 1951 and 1953 he produced a large number of small plaster models. These convey an extraordinary spontaneity, seeming in some instances almost like play or perhaps an escape from private difficulties. Which is certainly the case with a dazzling set of dolls for Paloma, painted onto scraps of wood whose accidental shapes are preserved. There are also some masterpieces, like the graceful assemblage la Liseuse (Woman Reading), of plaster, wood, nails, and screws. The painted bronze version, although cast in May 1952, seems curiously anticipatory of Jacqueline. 1La Taulière (The Madam) bridges the years between 1954, when the work was conceived, and 1957, when it was cast. The preliminary drawings still exist, as well as Edward Quinn's photographs of its various stages of construction, during May 1954, when Picasso's working period with Sylvette was at its height. At the beginning the various constituent elements were laid separately on the ground. The sculpture, which achieves a quality of extraordinary monumentality, preserves from these constituents a sense of rhythm, of gaps—even chasms— between the parts, a gueule (gaping hole) which produced the work's studio nickname: "A real bordello madam," Picasso explained, laughing. 2

As for Sylvette, she had been the precipitating element for an unprecedented breakthrough. Inspired by her profile, Picasso cut a piece of sheet metal, which he then folded and painted. The result was a sculpture which although any breadth or cubic substance was a contrivance of folds in space, 3 nonetheless gave a viewer two profiles to consider as he walked around the piece, offering a different perspective at every angle.

On one occasion, some fifteen years later, in the inner studio at Notre‐ Dame-de-Vie, where paintings were stacked, Picasso tried to hold upright so that I could photograph it a little seascape of 1900. He had just rediscovered the picture, painted on a piece of pasteboard, one of whose corners was crumbling. When we were done, Picasso contemplated the profile of Jacqueline découpée on a piece of sheet metal which he had been using as a prop. Or, more precisely, he contemplated the profiles, projected as

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