Picasso / Manet: Le déjeuner sur l'herbe

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1970: the epilogue

Pablo PicassoLe déjeuner sur l'herbe after Manet, June 17, 1962© Succession Picasso 2008 - RMN-Grand Palais / DR
The end of the Picasso-Manet tête-à-tête probably comes with an engraving dated 5 April 1970, entitled Legless Painter in his Studio, painting "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe". Picasso was 89 years old. His painter had not aged, but had become smaller. He still resembled the Conversationalist of the 1961 paintings, but he has taken himself out of the painting. On his left, a woman (Jacqueline) takes up the whole height of the painting. Both are looking at the composition. Victorine Meurent lets herself go in the arms of her neighbour (clothed). The "Conversationalist" (clothed), disillusioned, is watching a naked woman who was not in Manet's picture.
The swimmer in the background has moved further away. The "Conversationalist" no longer dominates the situation, nor does the painter. The characters and the painting have taken over. This is the final disruptive twist that Picasso imposes on Manet. And also, on Manet, Giorgione, Raphael, Marcantonio Raimondi and Cézanne - on all painting, in fact.


Manet was the first to break with tradition at the same time as he moved back towards the museums and his masters. Picasso knew that it was precisely between this naked woman, embodying tradition, and the man in modern dress embodying the painter, even all painters, that the dialogue with the painting began. It is here, perhaps, where the source of the "pain" that Picasso had glimpsed in 1932 resides.

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