Exhibitions, News & Commentary, Visual Arts

Picasso, art and #metoo

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Hannah Gadsby excoriated Picasso in her viral Netflix Nanette show: as a misogynist and child abuser (P was 46 when he got with 17-y-o Marie-Therese Walter) his work is disqualified from being celebrated; “genius” is no excuse. A male and institutional blind eye is turned for his (and their) benefit.
Woman with fan

The excellent Hermitage show at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney has a row of pictures by Picasso. For sheer power I think they are only rivalled by the row of Matisse (another unfaithful husband).

Man with arms crossed, portrait of Antoni Vives


To be extreme, what if the CEO of Exxon were also a great painter, or the CEO of CBA was a great novelist? But that won’t happen — it takes a lot of time and effort to be a good artist. So, how can we enjoy good art by “bad” people (men)?

Picasso can’t be denied. No artist after him is unaffected by his work.

Mostly, ignorance helps, and time past. Auden suggested this: “Time … Worships language [art] and forgives / Everyone by whom it lives…” Distance relieves the pressure. We can admire the pyramids and the Great Wall as markers of human enterprise without immediately thinking of the mind blowing suffering they incurred.

Portrait of Max Jacob’s mistress

Gadsby studied art history, but she can’t look at a Picasso unmuddied. I get it. But Picasso can’t be denied. No artist after him is unaffected by his work. Maybe he can’t be forgiven his ruthlessness, and yet … A truism is that art distills the best of the artist — the book; the music; the artwork; the dance. If that is so, then to deny the art is to refuse someone trying their best to transcend themselves.

Nude boy

Why look at art? For pleasure. To be consoled or confronted. To be quickened. And that’s also what happens to artists when they make their art.

This article was first posted on Instagram @whchong

6 responses to “Picasso, art and #metoo

  1. There must be something wrong with Gadsby’s comprehension of numbers. I don’t know of anywhere on the planet where the female age of consent is above 17 years old. Age 14-16 is the normal range. The 14 YO’s come out of Dolly Parton country. (Probably the Swedish feminazis have enacted an 18 YO age of consent of which I am not aware).

    So a 46 year old Picasso ‘gets with’ a 17 YO female. And this is child abuse? Any evidence that the liaison was not consensual? Maybe it was a bit primitive (as Picasso was), but does not compare with Mohammed ‘getting with’ a 9 year old; nor even Gandhi ‘getting with’ his 13 year old wife.

    I assume Gadsby has suitably condemned the Prophet and the little Saint in a loin cloth.

  2. I’m with Hannah. It saved me so much time just focussing on Matisse, Malevich, etc. one less man to have to revere he eye, skill and gaze predominantly at women. Also now having bought the Lucian Freud biography, I’m saved from reading any further – he fathered 14 children because he refused to let his sexual partners use contraception. The women agreed – wonders will never cease. Another biography I was saved from reading – Hal Porter. His biography written by a Mary Lord (his friend) revealed that Porter sexually abused her 10 year old son. I didn’t read any further and threw the book in the bin. She remained his friend. Oh my! Life is to short and there are many many many more artists and writers to enjoy and reflect upon.

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