For the last two weeks my partner and I have been in Spain consuming tapas and gin. We learned the art of fanning yourself spastically in the heat, dodged a million Catholic teenagers in town to see the Pope, and overdosed on the rich history of Spanish art all found within the Prado, Thyssen, Reina Sofia, and Museo Picasso.
Almost everyday we walked by the bullring in Madrid, aware that in Barcelona the practice will be illegal starting 2012. On the BBC they featured quotes of Ernest Hemingway saying that what is moral makes you feel good and bullfights made him feel good though sort of sad afterwards.
I thought of the grace of the matadors, and the strange death dance involved – a theater of mortality. The abuse of the bull depresses me. I guess it’s quite all right that bullfighting is a dying tradition while soccer has taken its place in popularity. Though soccer like all things today, is such a globalized event.
While in Spain I read the book, Life With Picasso, by Francoise Gilot. The bullfight was at the core of all Picasso’s relationships. He requested the same sacrifice of his lovers, so proud of his own genius that he requested they die to themselves and be reborn through him.
“… with Pablo there must always be a victor and a vanquished. I could not be satisfied with being the victor, nor, I think could anyone who is emotionally mature. There was nothing gained by being vanquished either, because with Pablo, the moment you were vanquished he lost all interest (Gilot, 341).”
Fernande, Olga, Dora Maar, Marie Therese, Jacqueline Roque – none of them quite survived the fall off of Picasso’s pedestal. Even after the relationships were long over, he dangled them along, enjoying the sight of ensuing catfights. Two of them later committed suicide while the others did not fare much better.
Francoise came to him young and inexperienced and stayed with him for ten years and two children. She was a celebrated painter with a strong sense of self and may have been the only woman to leave him of her own accord. He couldn’t fathom it. It was inconceivable to him that she wouldn’t sacrifice her needs for the great master, grateful for the money and security. He told her she would never be able to move on and find what she was looking for.
He added, “Every time I change wives I should burn the last one. That way I’d be rid of them. They wouldn’t be around now to complicate my existence. Maybe that would bring back my youth, too. You kill the woman and you wipe out the past she represents (Gilot, 349).”
Such ego, arrogance, narcissism, misogyny, and true matador spirit! The bull exists only for him. Only for his sport and amusement. And in his wake you see the haunted, twisted faces of women so aptly portrayed in Guernica. The post World War II public was horrified by these images that so encapsulated all they had just experienced through the war.
I feel that I have known Picasso intimately. Almost all of the men I became involved with were older, obsessed with youth and their own mythology. I learned so much through them, though I know they think my life is small without their presence in it. In truth my existence could only become large without them holding me down. Francoise knew this as well. She lived a rich life as an artist after she left Picasso, despite his attempt to dissuade associates from working with her. I am enjoying looking through images and sites dedicated to her work, seeing her happy, mature, fulfilled. Her art is stunning, as well as the pride she kept intact.