Viatge a través del blau: La vida

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Viatge a través del blau: La vida

The problem with really big exhibitions is that they’re, well, really big. By the time you make it through, the collection of indisputable masterpieces, to the weary eye, has become just a procession of colourful doodles. Smaller studio exhibitions are easier to digest, as is the case of 'Journey through the Blue: La Vie’, a title that’s bigger than the exhibition itself. ‘La Vie’ (1903) is Picasso’s great masterpiece before ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ (1907).

The works are separated by four years, but connected by a series of obsessions running through the work and life of this Malaga-born adopted son of Barcelona. And all this comes with a tragic background: when Picasso and his good friend Carles Casagemas first went to Paris, in 1900, they met two sisters and got involved with them. In 1901, Casagemas committed suicide in a Paris restaurant after shooting his beloved, desperate from the syphilis that had left him impotent. Rather than comfort him, she had abandoned him.

Eros and Thanatos arm in arm. Picasso and Casagemas often went to brothels and had suffered from syphilis more than once. Desire for life leads to death... But let’s not get too tragic. The exhibition at the Museo Picasso is a celebration of the first time since Picasso painted ‘La Vie’ in Barcelona 110 years ago that we can admire this piece from his blue period. And, from the Cleveland Museum of Art, we get a look at ‘Rooftops of Barcelona’, also created in 1903, and that – surprise, surprise –contains a palimpsest with a first look at ‘La Vie’.

‘La Vie’, in turn, contained another surprise in the form of yet another palimpset –  ‘Last Moments’, exhibited in Els Quatre Gats and in the Paris world’s fair of 1900. This work speaks of agony... To enrich this brutal dialogue, the Museo Picasso presents a series of drawings related to the version of ‘La Vie’ hidden behind ‘Rooftops’, and the drafting of the final version from Cleveland. The drawings include a figure protecting the sex act and visiting the artist’s studio.

The secret of all this, beyond the magnificent studies in colour and composition, still floats above the canvas: before us are four key moments of any life, with a portrait of Carles Casagemas at the centre as Picasso’s alter ego. What did the artist have to feel guilty about?

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