The extraordinary Picasso exhibit in Richmond, on view through May 15, takes visitors on a journey through the life of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). The exhibition follows the trajectory of the artist’s ever-evolving vision of what constitutes art. From his early academic days, during which Picasso proved he could paint like the Masters, to his later cubist work, Picasso revealed that art needs to change with the times.
While I’ve never been talented in the visual arts, I’ve always admired how artists turn abstract concepts into a vision of is and what can be, using canvas or sculpture. The process is a personal one, sometimes anguished, but the results can speak to your soul in a profound way. Picasso’s blue period with its monochromatic paintings of somber figures was likely a result of the death of a dear friend. Afterwards a rose period seems to indicate a brighter, happier time for Picasso.
Next Picasso begins experimenting with cubism. His “Man with Guitar” for example is a cubist masterpiece of angles and edges, shapes and shadows. Clearly, he envisions a different reality than the rest of us. The fluid, yet agitated movement inherent in this piece suggests Picasso’s own life was in a state of flux. Later he painted in a more classical style reflecting a more stable, settled existence. Rich, evocative portraits characterize this period.
Pablo Picasso was a complex and constantly evolving person.
These revelations about the artist made me wonder what styles I would have painted at various periods of my life. And when you stop and reflect about the trajectory of your life, how easy is it to break it up into periods as critics have done with Picasso’s journey as an artist? Even if we would just try to divide our lives into colors, what would you use to suggest the mood of the various periods of your life?
Here’s what I’ve come up with for mine:
• Green for youth. OK, this is not entirely original. After all, Shakespeare talks about our “salad days.” Youth is a time of growing, expanding, like a beautiful young tree spreading its branches.
• Rose for young adulthood. I’m thinking about rose-colored glasses, I suppose, and how the future seems so rosy when we’re just starting down life’s path.
• Blue for the time following my daughter’s death. Sierra’s eyes were blue, and blue describes my feelings for many years after her death. It’s a beautiful color, in spite of its cold reputation. Blue also makes me think of blue skies and better times ahead.
• Yellow for the year abroad we spent searching for happiness. Yellow is a warm color and that was a warm time, spent with my family pursuing our passion for travel. If you’ve read my book, Still Life with Sierra, you might recall the fields of sunflowers we spotted under the blue Spanish sky, a nice image that combines the blue of the previous period with the warmth of the yellow time.
• Purple for the next phase, the one I think I’m still in. It’s a royal color, and like many women at mid-life I am trying to figure out how to run my little kingdom in a meaningful way.
• What’s my next color going to be? I have no clue, but I hope it’s a deep jewel tone, a ruby perhaps, suggesting the riches in life—and I don’t mean monetary—that are at the heart of all we seek.
Plan a visit to Richmond while this astounding array of Picasso’s art is so nearby. You’ll be inspired. Then take a moment to chart your life with colors. You might be surprised by what you find.
See Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris through May 15, 2011 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Timed tickets are available by telephoning 804.340.1405 or accessing www.vmfa.museum.