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Garcon a la pipePicasso by Ann Seymour
When Pablo Picasso's Garçon à la pipe sold at Sothebys for $105 million earlier this year, I was reminded of the not shy and blushing Arianna Stassinopolis's Conclusion about the artist in her poorly researched biography: he was misogynistic, and, as a bad man, he is ergo a bad artist. The book was basically a clip and paste job by a woman who, to put it mildly, lacked expertise in art criticism. Once she finished the less than original biography, she decided to put her personal stamp on it by calling him a jerk and a second-rate artist, so I assume she was not among the bidders at the auction. How she found the bravado to attack the twentieth century's greatest is a mystery to many, but I think maybe she simply took her clue from a quote of his, "Everything you can imagine is real."

Although I never met Picasso, I did know two people quite well who were close to him. The first, museum director Gerald Nordland, who recently curated a Picasso show in Houston, Texas, spent a good deal of time with the artist and was the first person to exhibit his erotic etchings in the United States. I also knew Francoise Gilot, mother of Paloma Picasso, and the only woman who ever left him. I met her as Mrs. Jonas Salk and spent several summers enjoying her company in La Jolla, and that of her husband, the Nobel laureate inventor of the polio vaccine.

Gerry Nordland believed Picasso loved women, but obsessively so, a condition which does not imply longevity. Obsessions cool, and once Picasso developed a new one, his existing partner stood in his way, and he quite simply wanted to remove the obstacle. He could not control his passionate nature any more than he could control his talent. "Falling in love inspires my art," he once said. Gerry was fond of quoting the artist, his favorite being, "When I was a child my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you'll be a general; if you become a monk, you'll end up as the pope. Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso."

"You can't imagine a talent like Picasso being modest," Gerry said, and added, "he took what he wanted because he could. However, he gave his art one hundred percent. He once said, 'give me a museum, and I'll fill it.' He always tried to push forward. 'Success in dangerous,' he once said. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility' "

This dread of repetition and lassitude, loss of creative power haunted him and made it impossible for him to stay with one woman indefinitely, as his erotic inspiration and his artistic output were so interconnected. Picasso is not the only man who got rid of one woman because he fell for another. Guess what? Sometimes girls do it too. Let's face it: the reactions are always the same with serial lovers: initial euphoria and idolization followed by an insidious disillusionment, a feeling of claustrophobia, a perception of loving gestures from the partner as assaults.

strong>Francoise Gilot wrote a fascinating book, "My Life with Picasso," which is still in print and a marvelous read, although it was originally published in 1964. A brilliant woman and excellent artist herself, she had to free herself from his influence to find her own creative center.

Picasso found her book insulting, in fact was deeply pained by it, as he felt she portrayed him as a man who seduced a young girl and then manipulated and betrayed her. Apart from his belief that she portrayed him as a sadist, the artist was outraged by her revelation that she left him for an artist her own age.

At the age of 23, she was a beautiful, self-possessed art student living in Paris. One night she met Picasso, and he invited her to his studio, after which she became, for ten years, his love and his muse. Associating with the creative giant brought passion and excitement, but anguish and frustration soon began to emerge, though she does not entirely blame him for these feelings. For ten years, she struggled to survive as an individual while at the same time dealing with a man she loved but found demanding, domineering, mercurial, and unfaithful, though, like British princes, he did not expect her to take lovers.

Francoise was actually the artist's fifth major mistress. The first important one, historians agree, was Fernande Olivier. His mistress throughout his early, impoverished years during the Rose Period and early Cubism, he called her "the first of my muses”. In her memoir, "Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier," she describes him as a workaholic, an impulsive buyer, and a "jealous lover who often kept me locked up when he went out."

But she wrote all this after he ditched her for Eva Gouel, a woman he adored, though sadly she died of tuberculosis.

While designing the set and costumes for the ballet "Parade" in 1914, Picasso first met dancer Olga Koklova. He fell madly, truly, and deeply in love, married her, and abandoned his former bohemian friends to join the bourgeois mainstream with his wife. He produced many dedication pieces to her and their son, Paul, but after a while, Picasso's attentions began to wander. As the marriage slowly disintegrated, he began to paint tormented images whose color and configurations screamed anxiety. For instance, "Three Dancers," 1925, expresses a sense of Crucifixion and the dancers, presumably Olga, reflect his despair over his marriage.

Though I for one do not blame Picasso, Olga began showing "signs of madness," and divorce became inevitable. She had a complete mental breakdown after the divorce, and continuously stalked him and his mistresses in a manner reminiscent of the movie "Fatal Attraction."

Next came Marie-Therese Walther, who presumably lured him away from Olga, though scholars agree that Olga's disturbed nature had driven him away from her. A great deal of speculation surrounds this relationship, as Marie-Therese was as reticent as his other women were verbose. She never said a word against him, and often quoted his words, "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

Thought quiet, she must have been a woman of deep feelings. Eventually, in fact decades after her relationship with Picasso ended, she hanged herself later in the garage of her home.

Picasso agreed with Freud that there are no accidents. "Accidents -- try to change them," the artist said; "it's impossible. The accidental reveals the man." One day, quite by accident, or not, depending on how you choose to view it, he saw photographer Dora Maar walking down the street, introduced himself, and told her they would have an adventure. Indeed, she became his mistress and his muse for seven years, all the while photographing him at work or relaxing, alone or with friends. In 1937, she captured the agonizing process of painting "Guernica," his powerful protest against the Spanish Civil War. Dora's own features appear in the painting, as well as in many others of Picasso's during those years.

However, he eventually tired of her and said, "I still think she's beautiful, but her little habits are driving me crazy."

She outlived him by a quarter of a century, spending much of her life as a religious recluse, painting, writing poetry, and guarding her privacy. She owned dozens of Picasso paintings and drawings, sometimes realistic portraits, others, cubist works. She's often seen weeping, which brings to mind one of the artist's most unendearing quotes, "Women are suffering machines."

I think it was that quote that set off Stassinopolis. The truth probably lies in the fact that he was drawn to passionate, vulnerable women. Intensity has its down side, both in women and in men. Dora and Picasso split, and she spent a couple of years in an institution that dealt with depression. Then she went on with her life, though she gave creative types a wide berth.

Jacqueline Roque was his last mistress, living with him until he died in 1973. She dominated his last 20 years of work, and also devoted herself to every aspect of his life, cooking his favorite meals, keeping his finances straight, driving, and finally nursing him. She turned her creative self over to him.

Considering that he lived to be over ninety, Picasso had a fairly reasonable number of women in his life. He wasn't a Lothario who whirled from bed to bed with dozens of women every year. He and Jacqueline isolated themselves in the south of France, and he obsessively painted images of women, which reflected his artist-muse relationship with her.

Picasso was everything to Jacqueline, and after he died, she shot herself.

Picasso: genius, artist, angel, devil. How could an ordinary man paint the masterpieces he did? And women? Perhaps if he were attracted to jolly little cheerleaders, he wouldn't be considered so misogynistic by some people. The little cheerleaders would have put in their time, and after the inevitable split, sold his paintings and gone shopping.



If you Google Cinthia Haan, you learn that she helped launch Sprint, oversaw various mergers and acquisitions in telecommunications, created and sold more than one company of her own. Next you learn she's now dedicating herself to helping children with dyslexia and has formed, for this purpose, the Haan Foundation for Children. She's also President of power4KIDS reading initiative, a clinical trial of innovative teaching methods. Lots of lobbying Congress involved here. This information hardly prepares one for meeting her. She's a gorgeous, very feminine blue-eyed blonde with creamy skin and a radiant smile that make her look twenty-something. When she smiles, you think, this girl would make a wonderful friend; she's so empathetic and real. When asked why she switched from business to education, she says she sold her last company and went on a celebration vacation with her then husband. "We left our two grammar school children at home," she says, "and when we returned, I got the shock of my life: a message from Stuart Hall. 'Your son cannot read,' it said." As she remembers, she shakes the long wavy hair that she trims herself during teleconferences. "Horrible visions of an adolescence filled with depression, drugs, despair rushed at me, so I asked where to go for help. At the end of a year, it became apparent that the existing facilities didn't help, at least not enough. She's a big supporter of the New Three R's, a program of social, psychological, and cognitive intervention that can help nonreaders. "The brains of true dyslexics have been studied." She mentions a local Fortune Five genius whose eponymous company is a national brand. He's dyslexic, and he joined a group of subjects (all with dyslexia and IQs over 140), who solved problems while MRIs, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, recorded their brain activity. "The studies showed that these people are in fact wired differently, and their cortical function is entirely different from the general population's," she says. Now her son is off to college after nine acceptances, and her daughter, also a dyslexic, has graduated from college and is on a fast career track. She explains the new approach to teaching these people: combine phoneme awareness with phonetics and then put symbols and sounds together. Learn to deconstruct and then build a scaffold by visualizing and verbalizing. Comprehension and fluency follow once the pattern is set. "Our primary mission is to unite scientific research, education practice and technology toward the goal of improving education for all children," she says. "We will mobilize practices and programs that prove to be highly effective into schools, after-school programs and the homes of students . . . Through 'gold standard' research, we will analyze, design and disseminate winning practices and programs that target instruction to many different learning profiles, improving both the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in all learners . . . Our ultimate goal is establishing a research institute that will unite scientists from varying disciplines (brain sciences, biological sciences, environmental sciences, behavioral sciences, education sciences, and genetic sciences) to study and develop a comprehensive understanding of how the mind works best, environmental factors that may impair neurological functions, various biological issues, genetic traits effecting cognitive abilities; and the behavioral and emotional dynamics of learning aptitude."

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Wanted to congratulate two new friends on their publications: Kemble Scott and Neil MacFarquhar. Good men, good reads - my two favorite things.

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Art World Ascension Today

A portrait of supermodel Kate Moss painted by artist Lucien Freud fetched $6.65 million at auction a couple of years ago. Freud shot from the top tier to superstardom when he painted the official Jubilee portrait of QE II. Freud is a British subject but not a sycophant. Witness the dark, complex, rather threatening portrait he painted of his sovereign. She looked like someone you would not want to meet in a dark alley -- or tunnel. Moss, who learned that Freud wanted to paint her by reading it in a magazine, sat for the work in 2002 while she was pregnant with Lila Grace, her first child. A friend and I were discussing this over a lunch of grilled prawns and saffron rice, and she asked, "How do contemporary artists make it into the big money? And are the prices worth it?" Good questions. She then mentioned three other heavy-hitting artists who pull in the megabucks: Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, and Richard Serra.

Lucien Freud is the son of Sigmund, the father of psychoanalysis, which, as much as anything else, defined the twentieth century. He put new words like subconscious and superego into our vocabulary, and was a recognizable world figure. Naturally, Lucien had all the connections, but also the talent. He inherited his father's fascination with the human psyche, but rather than talking to prone patients on couches, he paints portraits. Once he labored six months to get his wife's eyes right in a sketch. You meet one of his portraits and you don't forget it.

What about aspiring artists whose fathers, unlike Sigmund Freud, were butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers? If these artists keep working, will someone discover them sipping a soda like the movie star Lana Turner? Not likely. Today one has an art career played like a game of chess. The kingmakers, of course, are the dealers and the museum directors, but it doesn't hurt to have a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant or a Guggenheim to join the faculty of a prominent art school or university with an exceptional department. Having a curator at a significant museum or art center like Detroit's DIA (www.dia.org) give you a show helps, too.

Not to say that breakaways don't exist. Jean-Michel Basquiat, the spectacularly talented African American who became famous through his lyrical and powerful graffiti, literally turned into an art star by roaming around Harlem with cans of spray paint, to say nothing of talent. Robert Rauschenberg, probably the dean of American artists, lived on the streets of New York for awhile, creating montages of found objects. One of Rauschenberg's first and most famous works, "Monogram" (1959), consisted of a stuffed angora goat, a tire, a police barrier, the heel of a shoe, a tennis ball, and paint. I remember talking to the abstract expressionist pioneer Clyfford Still, an admirer of Rauschenberg, who said, "He does it, he makes art, even with that bottle of Jack Daniels by his side, but most artists today are careerists and whores who chew the shoestrings of the downtown dealers. Money is their God, and that goes double for (the late) Mark Rothko. Great art ultimately comes from who you are. The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection."

At another party I chatted with the white-clad, soft spoken Tom Wolfe. A Southern gentleman with an almost shy manner, he seemed the opposite of his words. He said, "Today drugs and sex are so plentiful they don't work as tools to get ahead. You have to express the moment." I brought up Jung, who said great art expressed the collective unconscious of a civilization, and Wolfe agreed, adding that he didn't get into "because." "If you start to say 'because,' you get into art jargon," he added. Wolfe likes Cy Twombly, a particularly handsome painter and my favorite among the Twombly-Marden-Serra trio. Twombly could sketch brilliantly as a child, but he credits his life choice to a horror of having to work as a stockbroker or an accountant in an office. He wanted a free and creative life and calls the defining moment in his career as the day he met Robert Rauschenberg in New York. Robert said Cy had the talent and urged him to study at Black Mountain College near Ashville, North Carolina, the fertile crescent of artists at the time. Twombly's style began when he worked as an army cryptologist, which reinforced his love of linear pattern. After his military stint, he painted in New York, sculpted in Rome, moved toward a more literal use of text and numbers, and then developed a vocabulary of strokes and carvings inspired by mythology, poetry, and classic history. He plays out the contradictions he feels, the anxieties and dilemmas, in images that are often sexually charged, always beautiful, combining grace and intelligence. He made it to the big-time: solo exhibitions at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Musee d'Arte Moderne, Paris, a prize at the Venice Biennale -- you get the idea. His prices zoomed. A great artist affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Do I think Twombly is one of these? Yes, though his prices have little to do with it. They don't buy eternity. Take novelists. Two of them, Mary Higgins Clark and Margaret Atwood both make the big money, but only Atwood is likely to survive. It's the same with artists. The modern art world's getting a good shakeout at midlevel while prices of "masters" like Picasso soar.

Brice Marden's work has a specific vocabulary with its often joyful imagery, like a cat playing with a string. He paints feelings, forms, does not feel the job of an artist is to see things as they really are; if he did, he would cease to be an artist. He studied art at Boston University and then got a degree in architecture from Yale that influenced his painting, primarily his use of muted tones and preoccupation with geometric format. He had his first show at Bykart Gallery in New York, then became an assistant to -- guess who? Robert Rauschenberg. The great artist influenced the aspiring one, as he had so many others before. Rauschenberg had a unique track record of international stature, generous mentorship of the young, reaching out to help other artists better their situation. I don't know of any artist who's done that as much as he did. In time Marden exhibited at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, which shot him to international stardom. Since then, his work has evolved without losing touch with its roots. He feels he can't always reach the image in his mind, so even if the abstract rendition of it is not quite there, a work gets to the point where he can leave it.
Richard Serra was born in San Francisco, and one can immediately see he's legit as an artist and a person. His constructivist sculptures have great power and are madly in demand right now. However, whether he's considered a top tier artist in future generations is, in my opinion, problematic, because he lives in the shadow of David Smith, the giant of constructivist sculpture. But despite the overpowering presence of Smith, Serra's gotten more than his share of attention, especially when he created the perhaps overly massive outdoor steel sculpture for Manhattan titled Tilted Arc in 1981. After its installation, people hated it so much and launched such protests that it was removed, and in doing so, destroyed. However, Serra had his defenders, and the controversy, his prices quadrupled. He deserved his success, having trained at the highest levels-- literature graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, art at Yale, then in Paris and Florence on a Fulbright grant. As a young man, Richard Serra worked in steel mills to support himself, and much of the raw intensity of his work derives from that experience combined with his magnetic masculinity. While he works on a piece, he can feel when he begins to love it, and experiences a slow comprehension. What counts most to him is finding new ways to recreate ideas in sculpture on his own terms. He can say things with sculpture that he can't say any other way, things he has no words for. It is this direct emotional truth in his work that I believe accounts for his huge success.

All of the artists I've discussed are the real thing, but who am I to say? Andre Malraux described art critics this way: "The dogs bark but the caravan moves along." True, but in the twentieth century, the artists who made it had the full backing of the critics, people who had learned from their mistake at the Salon d'Autumne where they called Matisse and friends "fauves," wild beasts. Still, even the best "barking dogs" can't tell you for sure who will still be hot in 2099.