Sunday, 20 February 2011

This Month's Conundrum!

Dear Bloggers, here is a conundrum for you to consider!

What is the connection between Picasso and the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles?

No idea? Good! That gives me an opportunity to expound a pet theory of mine and perhaps answer the very question I have just posed!

We know that Picasso was always interested in sport, and not just bullfighting. Indeed, as a young man in Barcelona he was closely involved in cycling and hung out with a group of Spanish painters and writers who followed this sport passionately, meeting regularly at Els Quatre Gats

This interest in cycling and the Tour de France in particular, continued throughout Picasso's long career

The Bathers, Biarritz, 1918

The beach was always an important location for Picasso and he frequently captured seaside activities, as in (above) this painting of rather self-absorbed, indolent girls on the beach at Biarritz

Besides, the beach was always associated in Picasso's psyche with sexual freedom - and (hopefully!) sexual conquest

Bathers Playing Ball on the Beach, August 15, 1928

By 1928, however, his beach figures had undergone a dramatic transition - as in the above painting. Now the gentle, quasi-realistic feminine curves have become angular, explicitly male figures with pointy genitals!

These changes were part of a larger evolution in Picasso's depiction of the human body - a creative process that pushed human forms into entirely new, experimental and revolutionary areas - as in this remarkable painting of 1931:

Figures on the Seashore, January 12, 1931

I should add here that Picasso now had a new, secret mistress called Marie-Therese Walter whom he had picked up in Paris in January, 1927.

In the years that followed, his passionate relationship with the young Marie-Therese produced some of his most beautiful paintings

Dream, January 24, 1932

Each year thereafter he would secretly install his young mistress in an apartment at the seaside resort where he and his wife Olga spent their family  holidays

In 1932 his depiction of beach figures underwent an even more dramatic transition, as in this celebrated painting called Bather with Beach Ball:

Bather with Beach Ball, August 1932

Now the limbs are fully rounded and the figure, suspended in mid-air, is lunging forward dramatically.

Which brings me to my pet theory and Picasso's possible connection with the Olympic Games of 1932 in Los Angeles!

While Picasso did not attend these games that summer he most certainly read about them in the French press and would have see photographs like the one below:

The photo-finish camera,although first used at the Stockholm Games in 1912, came of age in Los Angeles in 1932 with the use of the 'Kirby' camera

Here the human figures, captured in a split second, are both distorted and elongated - just as Picasso does in his 1932 Bather with Beach Ball of August of that year

Of course, I have no direct evidence that a photo-finish photograph was Picasso's inspiration but it is a theory that is certainly worth considering!

What do YOU think?

Comments welcome!

Mike Healey

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