Picasso: Life and Art

By Pierre Daix; Olivia Emmet | Go to book overview

2
FROM PRODIGY TO ARTIST
1897-1900

For the rest of his life, resisting an almost diabolic facility presented his greatest difficulty. Forty years later—in 1936—Christian Zervos heard Picasso declare: "With me, a painting is a sum of destructions," which means a refusal of too much success, too much improvised perfection. Thanks to Don Salvador, even before the official approval of Science and Charity, Don José had saved enough money by October 1896 to send his son to Madrid, the only place, in his eyes, suitable for serious academic study. Muñoz Degrain had just been made a professor at the Academy of San Fernando and would act as "godfather" to the boy. Tradition asserts that once again, in the entrance exams, Picasso scored a triumphant success.

Little, in fact, is known about this period, which lasted until a bout of scarlet fever in the spring of 1898. Assumptions—like that of Mary Matthews Gedo—that Picasso was lost without his father and too vulnerable to master new material alone are not supported by the facts. On the contrary, everything seems to confirm Sabartès' view that Picasso went off to Madrid "without convictions," and that "he was to draw a conclusion entirely at variance with the importance his family attached to this move, and with objectives quite separate and distinct from theirs. Madrid—for him—meant escape and adventure; departure from the ordinary, discovery of the unforeseen." Had he complied with their wishes and followed the course they envisaged, "he would surely have become a recognized Pablo Ruiz, a figure with official distinctions and a steady income."

Sabartès, who met Picasso less than a year later, remembers specifically :

The entrance exam to the San Fernando School, his third spectacular triumph, was enough to make him lose any desire to attend class, which was far too easy for him. He found the Prado much more attractive. ... Then he fell ill and decided to leave Madrid, thereby destroying the plans his family had made for him.

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