View Full Version : Painter or Joker?

01-28-2012, 06:01 AM
The other morning I was listening to a British radio broadcast in the Desert Island Discs series. The guest for that day was 83 years old Paul Bede Johnson, journalist, historian and author, who became known early in his career as a “good all round verbal pugilist”. The reason, of course, was that he said what he thought even though that ruffled a few feathers. During the broadcast it was clear that his 83 years had not significantly mellowed his style. Early in his journalistic career he became the Paris correspondent of The New Statesman and his work brought him into contact with Pablo Picasso on a number of occasions. Although he confessed to not particularly liking Picasso he was drawn to the man’s charisma and during one of their meetings Picasso said to him: “you know, people call me a great painter but, in reality, I am a great joker.” I immediately thought of his Blue Period and of his Cubism and later works which seem devoid of all pretence at reality. Had Picasso realised that he had caught the art aficionados off guard and was he exploiting their gullibility by painting tongue in cheek? If so the legend continues given the record prices that his works fetch when they rarely come up for auction. One of his lesser known works “La Lecture” was sold about a year ago at Christies in London for £25.2m ($40.7m) and in 2010 his “Nude, green leaves and Bust” was also sold by Christies for £67.7m ($106.5m) – surely a record for a “joke”.

01-28-2012, 07:33 AM
We love to laugh. The Jester is an appropriate reference since he is a recognised position in social life and can be tracked thru the ages.

The guild or profession I participate in is "the painter". This profession is still completely dependent on its audience.

I think Picasso is more upset that what he offered as an artist was not on par with Da Vinci or the Pyramids. Art is an expression of individuals and societies. It's content is often quite serious.

Picasso may have become aware that his art offered "abstract" and intellectual brain teasers which didn't deal with life issues such as David's "The Death of Marat" or say the uproar over Caravaggios depiction of christ having dirty feet.

So then picasso does his "Guernica". Maybe he is ashamed at his subject matter and reinvests his effort in serious material. It is curious to note that his early works dealt with as example "Science and Charity" ( http://uploads8.wikipaintings.org/images/pablo-picasso/science-and-charity-1897.jpg ). He became entranced by his own joke then.

All conversational references I make to Picasso tend to be quotational and rarely of his particular technique. I would more readily note Velazquez"s "Mars" (http://www.theartgallery.com.au/arteducation/greatartists/velazquez/mars/index.html) than a Picasso's "Guernica" (http://traviscraddock.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/%C2%A1hola-espana/guernica/)

01-28-2012, 08:06 AM
let me say this though,

Bert, You bring up an interesting topic. I want it to stay right here where I go, "Acrylics".

Picasso (the joker) has inadvertantly heralded in acrylics. Acrylics came from House Paint.

Flat Tape Rollers Fast I dare say childish

Picasso opened up the "Stage" for painters to be on show. the greats were yet to come. Duchamp Dali Stella Pollack Gottlieb Motherwell Dekooning Lichtenstien Rosenquist

Many artists whose techniques and ideas brought acrylic away from house paint and into a readily available material in common use.

This allowed for the concoction of matte medium, Gloss and Gel. This gave us acceptability to use masking tape. I can drop money into my wet paint. Someone used a Jet Airplane Engine to splatter paint onto a canvas.

If Picasso is a joker, well thankyou. Laughter and freedom are very good Life experiences. Acrylic releases me from the slow ponderous use of oils.

I like the joke of acrylics. I like that the joke that was acrylic in the 40's and 50's became action painting, hyperrealism, pop art, op art etc...

01-28-2012, 05:27 PM
Thanks for this entertaining exchange!

01-29-2012, 03:24 PM
Michael: Whether Picasso heralded the use of acrylics or not has little relevance to the point that I was trying to make. Any artist who tries to make a living from his/her work will take note of what sells or of what excites laudatory comment. Picasso was, in fact, a very good draughtsman as evidenced by his early work but if he produced something bizarre which excited acclaim then he would be more likely to produce something in the same style particularly if it sold. Was he, in fact, one step ahead of the critics and producing work which was more and more bizarre so that it would be commented upon and ensure that he had a better market for his work?

01-29-2012, 08:07 PM
I agree with the shock jock andy warhol sales description of picasso. He rode a wave into the 20th century. He told us blue was new. The cube wasn't square and Gesture is the new "it". His skill backed him up and his social connections believed.

everyone knows the name picasso. Few know Juan Gris.

We know Dali but who the heck is Matta or Tanguy.

We heard of warhol but what happened to jasper johns

Picasso, Dali and Warhol really embraced notoriety. They are the artists that enjoyed the success and here is picasso questioning the kitch in his work.

So I agree with you Doug....He is a Joker. But I point out that it is unfair to consider that term as derogatory. He was quite good at it.

Duchamp retreated from it.

01-30-2012, 07:01 AM
Michael: I certainly don't use the term "Joker" in a derogatory sense with regard to Picasso. ( We are told that it was he who allegedly coined the phrase in conversation with Paul Johnson.) Picasso had great artistic ability but I guess he was also very astute and recognized the market for his more bizarre works and then exploited it. The question that intrigues me is, assuming that he really did think of himself as a joker, was he deliberately taking a rise out of the art establishment with his later works?

01-30-2012, 07:27 AM
Well Doug...

Are you familiar with the quote from Picasso (and I dont remember it exactly):

"If you paint something you like but it was an accident, wipe it away and paint it a secound time so it is not an accident."