We challenged our Picture Department to imagine what it would be like to spend an evening over dinner in the company of an artist of their choice. First up, Head of Modern and Contemporary Art - Amy Scanlon
As soon as I was asked this question, I instantly blurted out my answer…. ‘’PICASSO!’’
Pablo Picasso of course needs little introduction, as he is considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. As the co-creator of Cubism, his distinctive style has been both admired and reviled. Since I was old enough to remember, he has been my favourite artist. During childhood visits to the Tate Gallery, the amazing angular lines of his 1937 work ‘Weeping Woman’ fascinated me. At school and college I learned he was prolific in his lifetime creating paintings, prints, ceramics, sculptures, and theatre designs, and in my teens I travelled to see his great works such as Guernica in Madrid, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon in New York, and the Picasso Museum in Paris.
Amy Scanlon - Head of Modern & Contemporary Art
I think a reason for Picasso’s popularity is not just the artwork, but also the man behind it. Living to a ripe old age of 91, through his art we can see him playing out both his times of sorrow and his ‘joie de vivre’. I think he would be a fascinating person to have dinner with and I am sure there would never be a dull moment with his mischievous personality. One such time, was a famous dinner party he had in 1908. Hosted by friend and art critic Guillaume Apollinaire. The party was in honour of Henri Rousseau, who at the time was not well received as a painter and mostly ridiculed. Picasso had purchased a work by him very cheaply in a second-hand shop and had thought it was ‘so bad that it was good’. For fun, they decided to hold an over the top party in his honour, and invited some of the most noted people of the day including Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Marie Laurencin, Gertrude and Leo Stein. Although initially intended as a joke, the dinner is seen to have validated Henri Rousseau in the art world.
That evening, Rousseau arrived with his violin and was toasted by Apollinaire, with Braque accompanying the speech on his accordion: “These wines that in your honour Picasso pours. Let’s drink them then, since it’s the hour for drinking. Crying in unison: ‘Long live! Long live Rousseau!’
Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
CIRQUE: ECUYÉRE, AND PIERROT CLOWN (BLOCH 1522)
Sold for £8,675 including fees in May 2018
As with all good dinner parties, by midnight, it was a raucous affair. Locals from nearby joined in, including café owner Frédéric, who brought his flatulent pet donkey. Artist Marie Laurencin was so drunk she did a risqué dance for the crowd and then fell onto the pastries that were supposed to be served for dessert. A legendary event of the Belle Epoque, the ‘Rousseau Banquet’ may have been greatly exaggerated over the years, but it is certainly a party I would like to have been at!
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