THE TRAGEDY OF CASAGEMAS
AND THE BLUE PERIOD
Until recently the explosion of light, lively color in Picasso's work in the spring of 1901 has been included in his blue period. The deaths of the original collectors, which brought their pictures back on the market, the increased availability of colored photographs, and a re-evaluation of Spanish youth—all of these were needed for an understanding of his prehistory. But even with them an essential element was lacking: the effects of Casagemas' suicide on his friend's work. It was not until 1965 that Picasso showed me the other paintings which altered the meaning of l'Enterrement de Casagemas (The Burial of Casagemas)—the single canvas on the subject known theretofore. 1
Picasso continued his line of swift, externalized painting for the duration of his exhibition at Vollard's. The Fourteenth of July seems its quintessential expression: a pyrotechnic display of colors so fiery that the picture looks almost abstract. It is in this range of colors that he paints—seemingly without transition—his first suicide picture. Casagemas in his coffin, a bullet wound in his temple, is lit by a candle filling the canvas with multicolored rays and a violence which seems to derive from van Gogh. 2 The two other canvases in the set declare the preeminence of blue. The group as a whole is filled with the gravity of recognition: tragedy has just struck.
Picasso also provided information which helped me find police records of the inquiry into the case. 3 And a short time before that, following his eightieth birthday, he began to help identify Germaine's appearances in his work.
Later still he was to give Palau i Fabre the final details of Germaine's part in the drama. Like a good Spaniard, he detested indiscretions about his private life and protected friends, lovers, and companions at least until after their deaths. In this case he waited for over twenty years, Germaine having died in 1948. 4 But when we finally did speak of that time, Picasso stated without hesitation that the autopsy on Casagemas had revealed an anatomical reason for his impotence. Germaine's baffled incomprehension of her lover is understandable; he constantly declared his passion but avoided every opportunity for physical intimacy. One must also bear in mind the