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On this day in 1881 the painter Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga, Spain.
The son of a Spanish art teacher, Picasso lived in Spain, and France and also for a short time, in London with Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet in 1919, for whom he designed sets and costumes. During this time he stayed at the Savoy Hotel and even bought a Savile Row suit and bowler hat to ‘be like an English gentleman’.
It was said that he changed his women as often as he changed painting styles. It is hard to disagree with his mistress Dora Maar’s summation: “As an artist you are extraordinary but morally speaking, you are worthless”. Some people may be surprised to hear that Picasso wrote poetry. He was so multi-talented that one woman wrote to him “if I hear that you say Mass too, I shall not be surprised”.
Opinions vary on his poetry. According to a story from Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, one evening when Picasso was at Gertrude Stein’s flat, he read some of his poetry to the hushed group, none of whom dared say anything when he finished. There was a long silence. Hadley noticed how he was fidgeting. Still no comments from the other guests. Finally Gertrude said, ‘Pablo, go home and paint.’ This poem is entitled Art by Herman Melville:
In placid hours well-pleased we dream
Of many a brave unbodied scheme.
But form to lend, pulsed life create,
What unlike things must meet and mate:
A flame to melt – a wind to freeze;
Sad patience – joyous energies;
Humility – yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity – reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel – Art.
Today I pray that I may appreciate modern art however much of a challenge this may be.