Early Picasso (Issue 923)

In which we are reminded we cannot understand our clients’ as we see them now unless we understand how they got here…and how their journey influenced them.

“Do you like Picasso? Picasso’s art?” A fair question put to us by one of our guides in Barcelona as we prepared to visit the Museu Picasso.

As one of my friends said, a few years ago, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” My favorites include John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, and Edward Hopper. So, no, I’ve not been a big fan of Picasso, whom I knew only through his (for me) completely impenetrable Cubist and Synthetic Cubist work.

The Museu Picasso focuses, primarily on Picasso’s early work from his childhood to around 1917. Our guide, for whom everything is best when arranged in chronological order, started us at the beginning – Picasso’s drawings and paintings from his early years (1890 through 1901, before he started his depressing “Blue Period”).

I was stunned. Picasso demonstrated his extraordinary talent early. At the age of fourteen, be produced “Man in a Beret”, judged as good as or better than portraits created by earlier and contemporary artists much further along in their training and careers. “Science and Charity”, produced two years later, as a 15-year old, remarkable on many levels including an extraordinary optical illusion.

We completed our tour including the Blue Period, the Rose Period, his development of Cubism, and the progression to Synthetic Cubism and Analytical Cubism; at each stage, our tour guide shared highlights of Picasso’s personal life and professional progression. More or less, she lost me at the start of the Blue Period and I became less and less engaged as Picasso’s art became more and more abstract.

When we’d finished the tour, one of our group said, “His early work was beautiful, his later work just looks like a crazy man who devolved to no talent.” Another said, “I didn’t respect Picasso until I saw his early work, when he was 13 through 19 years of age. Then I really respected what he did later.”

Our patient guide, overhearing these remarks, responded, “It’s good to understand the early work to understand a later work. Picasso had to go through all the stages he went through in Paris and Barcelona to produce what he produced later.”

And, while I’m still not a fan of what he produced later, I now understand how get got there, why, and where he was going.Nick Miller assists banks and credit unions to sell services to business clients through better sales strategies, training, and execution. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site

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