Michael Moriarty’s Musings: Picasso Redux

October 11, 2012 11:18 am

A “return” to Pablo Picasso?!


Initially John Richardson,


Picasso’s most thorough and insightfully entertaining biographer entered my awareness!

Why my interest in Richardson?

He belongs among those Brits I feel admiringly wary of


if and when I meet them. It is simultaneously a thrill, a challenge and a possible embarrassment.

Here is Richardson holding forth to Charles Rose


at the Ganz Collection on auction at Christie’s in New York. Richardson’s opening to this exploration of this record-breaking Christie’s sale, is a craftily coded introduction to “Why art and the history of art can be exciting!”

Can art be more than a self-indulgence of the wealthy? Can it be more than mere curiosity? Can it, despite its academic isolation, achieve a point beyond mere eroticism?

Can great art be downright pornographic?

“Victor Ganz had been courting this very peppy girl… “is how Richardson begins to tell a tale of sexual liberation within the Ganz couple, a private revolution aided and abetted by their art collection.

The tale Richardson tells goes by so fast, however, you wouldn’t initially think that this showing was jam-packed with wildly erotic promise.

Richardson exclaims: “Early in their (the Ganz’s) career, only Picasso’s!! They only bought Picasso’s!!!”

Then he declares, “A lot of promise of ‘pneumatic bliss!!’”

Sex and pneumatic drills… T. S. Eliot Code for fornication… and Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss”… and the still enticing mysteries of Paris, 20th Century artists and “mythologists” and… the magnetism of “pneumatic bliss”?!

If that doesn’t intrigue you, what possibly can?

What, asks Charley Rose and ourselves, makes Mr. and Mrs. Ganz different from other collectors?

Richardson describes run-of-the-mill art lovers as “sheep,” following the herd and its unadventurous shepherds.

“The Ganzes didn’t give a damn for that!” cries Richardson. “They just went out and did exactly what they wanted… they had no mentor! While Victor bought difficult Picasso’s… Victor’s brother… well, the two had the same taste in totally different ways!”

There’s an interesting claim that can’t be explored because, at this moment, sibling rivalry is hardly the heart of John Richardson’s story. This adventure at Christie’s is largely about Victor Ganz and his wife Sally.

When one is an exceptionally well-respected art historian such as John Richardson, the number of facts in a story tumble to the front of a historian’s consciousness and it is both thrilling and annoying for this expert guide to pick through a mountain of material for what is “salient” for a television audience.

What appears most urgent for John Richardson in this interview is how much more attractive and salable “great” art might be when linked to profoundly more passionately earthy experiences… such as lust.

Richardson is clearly not talking down to us. He is enjoying this erotic stroll down Picasso lane as much as he hopes we will.

If you know the codes involved, yes, The History of Art can, quite frequently, become pornographic in the mind’s eye of the viewer.

Women of Algiers and their potentially “pneumatic bliss” leads us into Picasso’s friendship with Matisse. What we hear about, however, is Pablo Picasso’s satire on Eugène Delacroix and his own experience with the Women of Algiers.

While my dismissive attitude toward Picasso began with this article,


a further exploration, because of John Richardson’s lifelong fascination with Picasso, has led me to this article and its


paragraph from, of all blog titles, Madame Pickwick:

Within his peers, Picasso not only held his own, but remained the great presence of contemporary art; not as a grand old patriarch to be revered by his descendants, but as an artist whose vigor and invention remained phenomenal. There were very few painters of any importance whose artistic genealogy did not include Picasso somewhere. The invention since Guernica has continued to be, to a large extent, as in the purely formal aspects of that great painting, a combination and recombination of the vocabulary that Picasso had developed by the mid 1930′s. The general course of Picasso’s art from Guernica until his death was a steady gentling, although any generality applied to Picasso is proved by an unusually large number of exceptions.

In my own abbreviation: Pablo Picasso, therefore, is such a phenomenally great presence within the artistic genealogy of contemporary art that few 20th Century painters – or artists in general for that matter – have not included Picasso somewhere!

Now that my acting (interpretive) days are over and my creative days as composer and writer are reborn, I am being brought to my knees before Pablo Picasso!

Not because of Picasso but of what the critics and historians keep telling me repeatedly about Picasso!!

The most persuasive of these for me is John Richardson.


Richardson’s Picasso is vibrantly alive, massively human, an obsessively flawed mountain of indisputably ruthless genius!!!

Whether you think of Picasso as the Manolete of painters or Shakespeare’s villainous Richard III, what child of the theater wouldn’t relish dipping into a life such as Picasso’s?!

With that question in mind, we return to Richardson’s exegesis on the famous portrait of Marie-Thérèse.

Marie-Thérèse Walter in Le Rêve

Phallic worship drawn in an indisputably contemporary yet most memorable of ways.

Further details are elaborated on by Mr. Rose and Mr. Richardson.

They are both having fun and so are we!

“Promise of pneumatic bliss!”

Now we come, not in an unrelated way, to the Women of Algiers!

“Picasso had fun with Delacroix!”


Yes, the original idea for Picasso’s Women of Algiers came from Eugène Delacroix’s vision in 1834.

Apparently, Picasso’s series of paintings under the title Women of Algiers make fun not only of Delacroix but of Picasso himself.

Since there are many creations by Picasso under the theme Women of Algiers,


here is the most completely visual and historical link to these works. It clearly accompanied Christie’s auction of the Ganz collection.

Now that my first symphony for modern orchestra seems to be increasingly influenced by the shattering power of the life and the art of Vincent Van Gogh, there may… who knows… be a second symphony hidden somewhere in the psychic acrostic puzzles of Pablo Picasso. Three major periods of Picasso’s creativity might very well be captured in a classically structured three movements.

Meanwhile, my conclusions from Picasso’s “misogyny” and the artist’s burning fantasies about inheriting his own version of an Islamic harem?!

Everyman’s fantasy?

My response to that question?


However, an artist such as Picasso can file that “guilt” in a drawer and under a label entitled “Research”!

I’m too old and unrecognized as a composer to possibly taste the freedoms of Pablo Picasso.

That is why a preceding giant of painting, Vincent Van Gogh, has me so mesmerized. He brings undying faith into the lives of all unrecognized artists!

However, you can only dip into the intensities of Vincent Van Gogh for brief periods. His color palate alone seems even larger and more aggressive than the separate instruments of an entire philharmonic orchestra.

Then again, one might always try to translate a few brief corners of the Van Gogh masterpieces into music.

Why not?

The color selections alone have yet to be surpassed by any artist, modern or classical.

Visual or dramatic.


I just don’t think that Van Gogh has been explored musically enough.

His life? Yes!

His paintings?


We shall see!!

As for Picasso?

He’ll have to wait on Vincent Van Gogh.



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