Hockney notes Picasso’s balls

In today’s Observer Magazine, there’s this from a feature on David Hockney:

Picasso remains a touchstone for Hockney, particularly the late work, which as he gets older he sees ever more clearly. “I went in 1973 to see the original show of his late paintings in Avignon,” he recalls. “I went with Douglas Cooper, who was quite a Picasso scholar. He was telling me how terrible the paintings were, but I said I would like to go all the same. So we went over there and Douglas is going on and on about how poor the work is. And eventually I said: ‘Do you mind if I just have a look for a while?’ So I looked around for a bit. And I went back to Douglas, and I said: ‘You may not be interested, but these are paintings about being an old man.’ There was a painting of an old guy, his legs crooked, his balls on the floor, a woman trying to hold him up. I said these are the themes only the greatest take on: Rembrandt, Van Gogh. You wouldn’t get it in Andy Warhol.”

Here’s that ‘painting of an old guy, his legs crooked, his balls on the floor, a woman trying to hold him up‘ (Embrace, painted in 1971):

One of my favourite late Picasso works is L’Aubade (The Serenade), painted when he was 84 years old in 1965, and still full of a vitality that shimmers from the canvas.  I love it, too, for its sense of the joy of music:

I enjoy myself to no end inventing these stories. I spend hour after hour while I draw, observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they’re up to.
– Pablo Picasso, 1968

On Artchive.com they say this:

In the last two decades of his long career, Picasso produced more work than at any other time of his life. During this period, some works are not only dated by month and day, but with a numeral (I, II, III, etc.) indicating multiple works created that single day!  This late period tends to be overlooked, but contains some of the finest of Picasso’s paintings. Some critics maintain Picasso was creatively lazy at this point, but a close look at the work is very rewarding. He had achieved a level of effortless artistic expression that, I believe, has still not been fully appreciated after more than 25 years.  Regardless of your position on Picasso’s personal and artistic life, each of us can, in view of our own mortality, be awed by his final Self Portrait (painted when he was 91, in 1972):

Wikipedia notes of this last period that:

Devoting his full energies to his work, Picasso became more daring, his works more colourful and expressive, and from 1968 through 1971 he produced a torrent of paintings and hundreds of copperplate etchings. At the time these works were dismissed by most as pornographic fantasies of an impotent old man or the slapdash works of an artist who was past his prime. Only later, after Picasso’s death, when the rest of the art world had moved on from abstract expressionism, did the critical community come to see that Picasso had already discovered neo-expressionism and was, as so often before, ahead of his time.

On June 1, 1972 Picasso painted his last painting, The Embrace (Étreinte). He died in 1973, just 10 months after making the work.

Their bodies entwine in the height of passion, their body parts a jumble. A blue wave of death is approaching the couple. The curtain falls. The game is over. The background is white nothingness.
– Brigitte Sträter, Painting Against Time, Atlantic Times

Picasso,  The Embrace (Étreinte), 1972

The grand old painter died last night
His paintings on the wall
Before he went he bade us well
And said goodnight to us all.

Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more
Drink to me, drink to my health
You know I can’t drink any more…
– Paul McCartney, Picasso’s Last Words

‘What will the art world do when I am no longer…They’ll have to go over my dead body! They’ve no way of getting past it, have they?’
– Pablo Picasso

3 thoughts on “Hockney notes Picasso’s balls

  1. I think the 1972 Self Portrait is very apt as it may well refer to the Ife Bronze’s now shown in the British Museum..

    See the video:

    Found by an arrogant British Explorer in modern Northern Nigeria, the thief suggests that the work could not possible been achieved by ethnic Africans but by the Lost Tribe of Atlantis..? I believe this attitude towards Nigerians really needs to change today.

    I hope this is the reference point as so much of his work is taken from the Fang masks and African iconography in 1907/08 in the Black Period – the Death Mask/Spirit Masks. To me the artist is suggesting a death of figurative and landscape paintings and moving into the Modern and through African iconography we are arrive. We arrive at our true Modern.

    Just a thought!


  2. I remember that Avignon Exhibition—it covered only work done in one single year and was an record of an inspiring absorption in an activity, where sexuality and drawing were interfused: it was one of the most intense exhibition experiences I can remember.

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