puzzling over picasso…


11/09/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

Picasso works

I should have been standing in awe of these works by Picasso. I should have been basking in the greatness of a master painter, trying to absorb every stroke of paint, eager to rush home and emulate what I had seen…but I wasn’t, and didn’t, and wouldn’t. Bummer.

I made the inevitable journey to the newly-renovated Auckland Art Gallery, and the gallery certainly didn’t disappoint. The architectural visionaries did a fantastic job and have created an art space (a very large art space) that our city can be proud of.

Aside from the lure of the new gallery, the main drawcard was the opportunity to catch a rare glimpse into the private art collection of Julian and (the late) Josie Robertson. The collection includes seldom seen masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Gaugin, Dali and Mondrian. A real treat for New Zealanders who seldom make it to Northern Hemisphere galleries.

So, there I was, standing in front of “Woman in a Hairnet” (1938) thinking “I just don’t get it”. I was trying to muster up the obligatory sense of being overwhelmed by greatmness, but all I could think was how a young art student could have painted it.

I moved onto “Mother and Children with an Orange” (1951), hoping to step a little closer to intellectual understanding. Nope. And, again with “Glass and Pitcher” (1944). Nope.

I was really, really pleased to see the works, but so very disappointed. Is that an un-PC thing to say? Maybe Picasso’s success was helped by him being an artistic game-changer of his time. Someone who challenged the norm and got away with it. Someone who wasn’t afraid to be themselves and paint things as he saw them, not necessarily as they were. Though I don’t “understand” his work, I applaud Picasso and only hope that one day I can be as ground-breaking and original as he was.


2 thoughts on “puzzling over picasso…

  1. Mother and child with orange. A visual delight of form, colour and line. Striking in its power. Well designed, and weighted perfectly. The whole piece reads well, and for its time innovative. The woman in the hair net captures the ‘type’ very well, however not one of Picasso’s best, in fact to my understanding is mediocre, rushed and to my eye unfinished. The potential is there, but it needs polishing. It is not a matter of whether or not you get ‘it’. In reality it is what excites the mind, if you are an artist it is easier to appreciate how art rules are broken then ‘glued’ together to complete a whole image that reads well. The excitement gained is in the understanding of how this is done, coupled with the realisation that the approach worked. This might not be how anyone else approaches a work of art, but this is where my appreciation begins. I might not like the finished work in many cases, but the skill within is where my fascination lingers.

    • Sarah says:

      Well put and thanks for taking the time to comment!
      Seth Godin (marketing guru) once wrote something like “don’t bend the rules, break them” (but far better worded than my memory serves!). That sentiment goes for many things in life, and fine art is certainly one of those things. Picasso broke the rules, and I think we would not be as fond of his work if had not successfully broken the mould(s) of his time.

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Finalist, Estuary Art Awards 2011
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