only @ the museum of new art
jan 7- feb 25 2006
A box camera belonging to Pablo Picasso at the start of the twentieth century has been unearthed with a roll of exposed film still inside.
What was discovered, once that film was developed, is rewriting the history of modern art.
PICASSO'S CAMERA EXPOSES A NEW PICTURE OF MODERN ART
The indisputable genius of 20th-century art, Pablo Picasso stands as one of a handful of the most important artists in the whole history of Western art. Now, his pioneering work in photography is finally coming to light.
Painter, sculptor, draughtsman, ceramicist, graphic and stage designer, born 1881 in Mádaga, Andalusia. At long last, with recent discoveries, Picasso has also emerged as a prolific photographer: documenting his own studio, creating photograms, and, most startling, pioneering his own cubist imagery by manipulating a broken camera.
Picasso had begun to experiment with photography as early as 1901. Although little of it has survived, by the end of the decade, recent evidence reveals, that this new medium had taken a pervasive role in both his work and his working processes. His interaction with photography ranged from the amateur's enthusiastic snapshots of life in Paris, to simple records of his works in progress, to those seminal photographic experiments that helped point the artist toward cubism.
By emphasizing Picasso’s riveting explorations with this new medium, we can now understand how the camera acted as a catalyst for what was to come in his evolution as a painter. It was with the camera given to him by his new friend Severini, with its cracked lens that distorted friends’ portraits, used in combination with a hand prism, that together helped lead Picasso toward the discovery of the first and most significant art movement of the 20th century.
Explorations that resulted in the elegant geometrization of organic volumes through the use of a camera with its broken lens, then made all the more possible by a simple prism held over this camera lens that further cut everything into facet planes.
While Picasso took quite seriously these experiments with sliced planes, his artist friends viewed the photographs as mild diversions. Picasso’s first transfer of these experiments onto canvas in 1907, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, was met with similar jokes and derision by his artist friends.
“Matisse and Apollinaire have paid me a visit but left without understanding a thing. Even less than favorable reactions from Braque as well. Matisse advised me to take up caricature. No one understands a thing and they laugh! Derain has spoken to me about it as well, adding that one day they would all find me hanged behind ‘that painting’ of mine.”
It is known that before mid-October Gertrude Stein went to the Bateau-Lavoir with Alice Toklas. Her reaction, however, is not known. But she did write that Picasso's studio was then becoming "a kind of laboratory".
Edward Steichen views the photos on a studio visit and sends several to Steiglitz. Two are published in Cameraworks. Steichen would later say: "The images were like the meeting of a shepherd and a mermaid on the trunk of a Buick.”
In May 1909 Picasso left for Horta de Ebro with the benefit of this experimentation. Very significantly, he took advantage of a stop in Barcelona to photograph and paint a delicately geometrized portrait of his old friend Manuel Pallares, executed with vibrant, broken-facet strokes. In this portrait Picasso is obviously seeking an objective way to synthesize the forms he had discovered with the camera.
His working principle was: 'One must do everything on the condition that one never does it again. Once Cubism was firmly established, after 1916 Picasso’s camera seems to lose its importance in his daily work.
In 1932, however, he befriended the great French photographer Brassai. Picasso's interest in photography and the photographic process was quickly revived. Over the next few years, the two worked on a series of etched and painted photographic plates that would deliver a new body of work. Picasso also took as his lover the already famous surrealist photographer Dora Maar in 1936. Their relationship would last ten years.
His last ambitious photographic project was created thirty years later, the series of photo-lithographs entitled Diurnes (1962), created in collaboration with the French photographer André Villars.
When he died on April 8, 1973, at his chateau in Mougins, his friend the French art critic and political activist, Andre Malraux was invited by Picasso's widow, Jacqueline Roque, to have a last look at his collection of "junk". Malraux mentions discovering “in the mess” of Picasso’s studio a small tin box with early photographic experiments. We can only assume these are the few surviving photographs taken with Severini's broken camera. Malraux later writes in his memoirs, recalling them as “diversions”, and advises Jacqueline they are of no real value, adding: "Obviously nature has to exist so that we may deride it."
Severini’s camera, a roll of film still secretly undeveloped inside, was once again viewed as a broken toy.
The old photos and camera were tossed out on the estate's curb where a ragpicker from Mougins, Lucien Leclerq, discovered them and sold the bunch at the village flea market.
The broken camera, brittle stack of negatives and several discarded drawings eventually found their way into the hands of Swedish collector Peter Hallstrom.
Hallstrom, guessing their importance, then directed the Bergen University professor Dr Åke Neilsen and his team of assistants to supervise the meticulous task of bringing them all back to life.
The astounding results of these efforts have changed art history forever and may now be viewed by the public for the first time at the Museum of New Art, with the exclusive American engagement of PICASSO'S CAMERA.