CANNES is a pleasant town—particularly, out of season. I think if old Lord Brougham were around today he would be rather happy— not terribly unhappy, anyway—at the evolution of the peaceful little fishing village he started along the primrose path. I arrived a little before two o'clock and I assumed that Picasso would either be eating or working, so I decided to hold off making contact until the next day. But as I began to drive around a bit to get the feel of the Ford Vedette I had rented, I found it was nosing up in the general direction of the Observatory in the hills behind Cannes, so I let it have the lead and just followed along behind. When it came time to call on Picasso, I would at least know the way.
"Picasso: Creator and Destroyer" (June 1988)
Picasso's art enacted the violent passions and twisted energies of the twentieth century. So did his life. By Arianna Huffington
Finally, with a certain amount of backtracking, I found Picasso's street. I followed it slowly uphill and after climbing a couple of hundred meters came, on the right, to a villa half hidden by a high black iron fence with a wide, even higher black iron gate. Both the fence and the gate were reinforced with black metal sheeting that closed off the view. Between the wide double gate and a smaller, similarly barred doorway was a marble plaque with the single word Californie incised in it. This, I knew, was my destination. I drove just beyond the gate, pulled a bit off the road against the wall of the gatekeeper's lodge, and got out of the car. The villa, as nearly as I could tell from outside the iron curtain, was a large, bulky, squarish place with a comfortable 1900 look about it. It was three stories high. The windows on the two upper stories—the only ones I could see—had wrought-iron balconies and were crowned by some rather intricately carved scrollwork.
I was studying the convolutions of this pleasantly rococo touch above the window at the extreme left of the second story when the window was opened and a slender, brown-haired girl wearing a royal-blue dressing gown stepped out onto the balcony. I recognized her, from a photograph I had been shown, as Jacqueline Roque, the young woman who now shares Picasso's life.
Picasso has always worked very late nights— often until dawn—when he is engagéà fond as I assumed that he now was. His women have always served as his models, increasingly so in recent years. For example, the appearances made by his previous compagne, Francoise Gilot, in Picasso's work in oils, gouache, water color, drawings in wash, ink, pencil, and colored crayons, sculpture, ceramics, and various forms of engraving and lithography (black-and-white and in color) are, quite literally, incalculable—at least for some years to come, until the historians have had a chance to bring their bookkeeping up to date. I assumed, then, that the previous night's work had been a long one, that Jacqueline had been involved in it and was just now arising. The other possibility that occurred to me was that work was getting under way earlier than usual. In either case, Picasso himself, certainly, would not be available. I walked back to the car and drove over the hills in the direction of Vallauris.
The last time I was in Vallauris, I had driven over from Cannes to see some of the ceramics Picasso was then producing. He had gone to work at one of the kilns there and almost singlehanded had succeeded in reviving the moribund ceramics industry which is the life of the town, so that Vallauris had once again become a thriving little industrial community and a considerable tourist attraction as well. The grateful town fathers gave Picasso the keys to the city and he in turn gave them the bronze statue, L'Homme au Mouton, a seven-and-a-half-foot male figure holding a sheep in his arms, that now stands in the town square. This time I wanted to get another look at the statue —a closer look than I had had on earlier visits.
When I reached the town, I drove slowly up the main street and parked in front of the mairie. I got out and walked across the road to the square, where the Man with the Sheep stood staring sightlessly into a group of rubberneckers climbing back into a big blue bus. He looked smaller to me somehow than he had on my last visit, and for that reason, perhaps, more sympathique. Whether it was the mistral cutting into my marrow that caused me to reach out and draw him into my own chilled orbit, or whether it was the deserted square at the top of the hill that somehow reduced him to more human proportions, I don't know. But whatever it was, I began to feel the warmth and vigor of the creative stir within him. For the first time he seemed to me an authentic, autonomous creation.
THE next day, I returned to Picasso's villa about noon. I left the car under the no-parking sign and was wondering how to get the concierge's attention (having already discovered that the bell-pull was disconnected) when the door beside the main gate was opened and two small boys came out. I looked in, and seeing a woman—their mother, I assumed—standing in front of the loge, I smiled at her. She walked over to me, limping somewhat, and I explained that I had a message for M. Picasso. I gave her a note I had written at the hotel that morning and asked her if she would see that he got it. I told her I would wait for an answer. She pushed the door to and I could hear her moving away, with her uneven gait, in the direction of the villa. The day was clear and warm and I walked out of the shade into the sun and slowly up the hill beyond the villa.
At five-yard intervals along the front of Picasso's property, the iron fence is buttressed by heavy cement columns. As I walked along, I could see that a poster had recently been torn off the face of each of them. Just enough of the lettering remained to let me know, after I had passed three or four of them, that the posters related to Picasso. I walked back and forth several times and finally, after waiting at the gate for a minute or two without hearing any sign of activity on the inside, I went back down the hill, this time well beyond the limit of Picasso's place. The road began to slope away to the left, and on a particularly well-exposed strip of cement fence, I saw an unmutilated copy of the poster. It was headed:
LETTRE OUVERTE À PABLO PICASSO
I am sickened [it read] by the spectacle of your obstinately closed door. It indicates that a new aristocracy has been created, transcending classes—one that finds ordinary people not worthy of notice. What do you care that I am starving as a poet? But you are wrong, because no matter how great a creative genius you may be, you cannot prevent posterity from classifying you as the symbol of an age in which man has revealed himself incapable of making judgments on a moral basis. (A generation has the artists it deserves.) Ours is the age of the hyena and the jackal.... Monsieur Picasso, you are walled off within your citadel.... Outside is the street and the street is tomorrow.... I find you enormously gifted, but what a mess you leave for those who follow!
I was meditating on the fine romantic paradox of this rebuffed starving poet, who could yet afford to pay a printer, at today's rates, to run off an armload of giant-size posters with which to vent his spleen, when, at the top of the hill and the edge of my horizon, I saw Picasso's concierge. She seemed to be waving to me. I left the poet and returned to her.
"Monsieur s'excuse beaucoup," she began, still a bit out of breath, "mais il est tellement pris. He cannot possibly see you today. But he would like to have you call him." She gave me the telephone number and I returned to Cannes.
The next day, a Sunday, I rang up the villa and talked with Jacqueline. I arranged to call after lunch on the following day. Monday afternoon, I reached the villa five minutes before the appointed hour. I pulled up at the gate, got out of the car, and tried the bell again. It was still disconnected. Looking through the mail slot in the door, I caught sight of the concierge standing just inside her loge. I called to her and told her I had an appointment with M. Picasso at that hour. The great gates ground slowly inward. I drove in, around the cour d'honneur, and parked at the front steps, facing one of Picasso's most hallucinatory sculptures, a six foot statue, which dates from 1943, of a woman (from another planet, certainly) who holds in her left hand an apple, in her right a kind of bronze warming pan. Like other of his sculptures, it appears to include in its composition a number of objets trouvés -- odds and ends that came to hand as the work got under way (or perhaps even inspired it). His pre-World War I papier collé drawings often reflected the same imaginative treatment of unlikely materials.
Jacqueline, in a yellow pull-over and scarlet toreador pants, was waiting for me on the steps. "Welcome," she said. "I'm Jacqueline Roque." We talked for a moment. Her English was excellent. She pushed open the massive front door -- heavy plate glass behind a decorative wrought-iron screen—and we walked through an entranceway into the central hall, weaving our way through great masses of crates, sculptures, stacks of canvases, and piles of ceramics.
"This looks like a Musée Picasso," I said.
"This is the Musée Picasso," she replied.
We passed into a large salon. The ceiling was well over fifteen feet high. Facing me, on the other side of the room, were floor-to-ceiling glass doors overlooking a terrace and gardens. The room itself and another, somewhat smaller, to my left, were filled with the same kind of overflowing accumulation of Picasso's work that I had encountered as soon as I crossed the threshold into the hall. It seemed a little bit like playing Ali Baba in modern dress. My eyes were racing from one corner to another trying to take it all in at once. Then I heard Jacqueline say, "Et voici Picasso." I turned and, across a distance of perhaps two feet, found myself looking down into Picasso's eyes -- as bright and penetrating as ever. He looked vigorous yet relaxed, and a long way from seventy-five. He was wearing saffron-colored duck slacks and a burgundy woolen shirt with a dark-brown sleeveless sweater over it; on his feet, a pair of canvas espadrilles. He led me into the dining room to our right, pulled up a chair for me near the head of the table, then settled his wiry, rugged little frame into a wicker seat beside me. Jacqueline sat down on the other side of him, facing me and completing a kind of semicircle. Picasso lighted a cigarette and looked over at me.
"Well," he said with a grin, "you've got me. Now what are you going to do with me?"
I TOLD him I'd been giving a good deal of thought to his work lately and in looking over what various other people had written about him I had run into a number of points that I had found confusing or that had seemed contradictory. I said that there were aspects of his recent activity, too, that puzzled me somewhat. And since I was planning to write something about him, I thought that if we talked some of those things over first, I'd be less likely to wind up writing a lot of bêtises.
Picasso laughed. "Oh, well," he said, "what people write about me is generally full of bêtises anyway. A few more or less can't do much to change things, I guess. One doesn't know just what to say, so one says something. It may be a little bête to begin with, but even if it isn't, it generally winds up sounding that way in print." His voice was low-pitched and full. He spoke rapidly, and although his Spanish accent was everywhere noticeable, his French was fluent and exact.
I told him that if he'd talk about the things I wanted to talk about, I'd do my best to keep the bêtises to the minimum. "It's a deal," he said.
One thing that interested me, I said, was the question of his Communism. It was hard, I explained, for many people to understand how a man who believes in total independence—whose work has been for nearly two generations the very symbol of it—could be a member of the Communist Party today. How did he square those two ideas?
He sobered down immediately. "I suppose you're thinking of the Social Realism in contemporary Russian painting," he said.
I said yes, but for the moment I thought we could bring it closer to home by sticking to the situation within the Communist Party in France. I referred to what Louis Aragon, intellectual wheel horse of the French C.P., had said after the Party had castigated him for printing Picasso's memorial portrait of Stalin -- not exactly a speaking likeness—in his paper, Les Lettres Françaises. I quoted to Picasso Aragon's words: "Anarchy in art is a petit-bourgeois concept which places the individual outside the mass, and thus condemns him to mediocrity, incapacity, uselessness, and malfeasance." Didn't that, I asked, point in his direction, and if so, didn't those terms, in that context, come as a bit of a shock to him?
Picasso shook his head. "I don't agree with Aragon on that point, any more than I agree with Soviet doctrine on realism in painting. I've known Aragon a long time. I know what he's like and how he feels. As I said, we don't always agree. Oh, I suppose it wasn't the best portrait of Stalin—or even my best. I look at it this way: Stalin died. I am a member of the Communist Party. I felt it was up to me to make a geste of some sort. If it had been someone else, I might have sent flowers. But in the circumstances, it seemed more appropriate, somehow, for me to do a portrait of him. Between me and other elements of the Party—those who objected to the portrait—there is a great distance, in some respects. My portrait had to cover that great distance. Like a bouquet of flowers, it started out fresh, and at the end of its long journey it arrived a bit faded and wilted. That's all."
He raised his finger. "There's another point I'd like to clarify in all that," he said. "I object to the use of the word anarchy in connection with my work—whoever uses it. I'm not an anarchist. I never have been. My work is a constructive one. I am building, not tearing down. What people call deformation in my work results from their own misapprehension. It's not a matter of deformation; it's a question of formation. My work obeys laws I have spent my life in formulating and adhering to. Everybody has a different idea of what constitutes reality and the substance of things. Labels are meaningless. For example, you say 'red.' What is red? There are a thousand reds." He pointed to the bowl of fruit in the middle of the big table. "We've been told that's an orange. So we call it an orange. We've been told that's an apple. So we call it an apple. But you and I look at those things and we see different objects—with the same name. I paint them in a still life and I set them down in what my intellect tells me is the order and form in which they appear to me. It's a constructive process from beginning to end. No, I'm no anarchist. I believe in total liberty, yes, but subject to an inner order, control—and laws."
I told him I thought it would make many of his admirers happy to pick up their newspapers one morning and read that he had renounced his allegiance to the Communist Party—not in favor of some other political organization, but just to get out of the political picture and leave that kind of activity to other people.
Picasso raised his eyebrows, then relaxed, smiled. "Look," he said, "I'm no politician. I'm not technically proficient in such matters. But Communism stands for certain ideals I believe in. I believe Communism is working toward the realization of those ideals." He paused ever so briefly and then, before I had a chance to speak, picked up the question that was beginning to formulate itself in my thought. "You'll ask me, 'what about Stalin?'" he said. Well, what about him? You would have said he was no good—but you didn't know that; you only thought it. Well, I thought he was. It turned out that I was wrong. But is that any reason why I should renounce the ideals I believe in? Let's say I were a Catholic and I met a priest who was no good—a worthless type in every sense of the word. He's all the bad things you can think of. Is that any reason why I should give up believing in Christianity? There are all kinds of perfectly authentic stories about the sins of the Church in the Middle Ages. Some of the Popes were horrible creatures. But should I—as a Christian—in view of that, give up my adherence to the ideals I believe in ? Eh bien, non!"
Jacqueline leaned toward Picasso. "Perhaps you should make things perfectly clear," she suggested, "by saying you have no intention of resigning from the Party."
Picasso nodded. "That's right. I have no intention of resigning. Things look bad in Poland and Hungary, I know, but I'm not quitting the Party just for that. I don't say the world can't find the cure for its ills under the capitalist system, but thus far it hasn't made very impressive headway." He studied me for a brief moment, then said, "I don't understand why Americans are so concerned about Communism, anyway. Especially, about whether some individual is a Communist or not." I had the impression, from the way he put it, that he was not expecting an answer. I shifted my gaze to Jacqueline. She had slumped back into her easy chair. Picasso stayed silent. I felt that he had talked politics as long as he cared to.
JUST then my eye was caught by an unframed canvas standing on a shelf above Jacqueline's head and to the right. It was a portrait of a girl—Jacqueline, I would have said—in tones of green and black and white. She was shown in profile, looking off to the left, and Picasso had given the face a mildly geometrical stylization built up of triangular forms which emphasized the linear treatment but at the same time preserved the likeness. I pointed to the painting. "How would you explain to a person whose training made him look on that as deformation, rather than formation, why you had done it that way?" I asked him.
"Let me tell you a story," Picasso said. "Right after the Liberation, lots of GIs came to my studio in Paris. I would show them my work, and some of them understood and admired more than others. Almost all of them, though, before they left, would show me pictures of their wives or girl friends. One day one of them who had made some kind of remark, as I showed him one of my paintings, about how 'It doesn't really look like that, though,' got to talking about his wife and he pulled out a tiny passport-size picture of her to show me. I said to him, 'But she's so tiny, your wife. I didn't realize from what you said that she was so small.' He looked at me very seriously. 'Oh, she's not really so small,' he said. 'It's just that this is a very small photograph.'"
Picasso burst out laughing. He turned to Jacqueline. "It sounds silly, I know, but it's true." Then he turned back to me. "Eh bien, it's the same story here—" he pointed to the canvas above Jacqueline's head—"it's a question of optique."
That brought us to talk of the conventional canons of beauty and ugliness. I mentioned to Picasso that critics of widely differing political and aesthetic opinions frequently explained—or defended—what would be considered mutilations of the female face, for example, in some of his paintings by urging viewers not to consider such a face as subject, but rather as merely an object in space, divorced from subjective involvements. But, I wanted to know, what about those idyllic wash drawings he had shown at the Maison de la Pensée Française in 1950—the lover, the poet, the artist watching over his sleeping lady—all very recognizable, all very classical? He himself had said, I reminded him, that in the act of painting, a painter empties himself of his emotions. So, then, were those 1950 Sleeping Beauties only objects in space, too, or was it permissible in such cases to consider that subject-painting, with all its "normal" emotional overtones?
"That's all literature," he said, "from start to finish. On the part of those writers and, I must admit, on my part as well. That kind of writing is just literature, and what I was drawing, in that case—well, that was literature, too. I might just as well have written about those scenes as drawn them."
I thought of his picture Guitar—one can't quite say "painted," but executed, at least, in 1926. It is a canvas slightly over three feet by four (or four feet by three, depending on which way it is hung— and there is no agreement on that point) to which a piece of coarse cloth has been affixed. The cloth has a hole in its center and is pierced by about a dozen and a half two-inch nails. A piece of string, two parallel black lines, and a one-column-wide news clipping help to round out the illusion, so that when the picture is hung in width, it presents a form assimilable, in its main lines, to that of a guitar hanging on a wall and casting its shadow (the newspaper cutting) beneath it. In his assemblage of the materials Picasso strayed pretty far from the average person's image of a guitar; yet the link with visual reality is by no means entirely broken.
I asked Picasso how he would analyze that version of a guitar.
"Go back for a minute to what I said about the color red and those apples and oranges or"— pointing over the top of the fruit bowl—"that bottle of water or that bottle of wine. That is my guitar. It may not be yours. It may not be Jacqueline's. But it's mine. You see, we go to the Beaux-Arts. They try to teach us everything. They wind up by teaching us nothing. They have us make copies of everybody, trying to turn us into another Velasquez or another Goya or maybe Poussin, and we remain nobody. Art begins with the individual. When the individuality appears, that's the beginning of art. So much for my Guitar.
"The trouble is," he went on, "we've been taught what to see and how to render what we see. If we could only be in the position of the men who did those wonderful drawings in the caves at Lascaux and Altamira! They had nothing to go by, nothing to build on. They had to start from scratch." Picasso raised his hands in a gesture of resignation.
"Well, we can't, of course. That was the Golden Age and we can't dream of bringing it back. So we have to resort to all kinds of intellectual devices to re-establish the vigor and validity of our vision. That's the Guitar again."
"But," I said, "people who don't understand the intellectual process that lies behind a work like that don't understand the result—even those who might like to."
Picasso cocked his head to one side. "Eh bien, tant pis! I don't paint pictures in the hope that people will understand them. They understand or not, according to their capacity. It's wrong to be so concerned about people's understanding, anyway."
"Then you think that the critic or whoever puts himself in the position of trying to help people to see or to understand things like that is performing a useless function?" I asked.
Picasso shook his head vigorously. "No. The critic or any intermediary must build a bridge people can walk over to join the artist."
"But in building that bridge," I said, "he has to make use of materials -- ideas, symbols, reasoning —that have meaning for them; otherwise it's just so much poetry."
Picasso grinned, reached for a cigarette. "Poetry's all right," he said. "Perhaps it would be better if all critics were poets and wrote poetry instead of pedantry."
I TOLD him I had read he was doing something for the new UNESCO building in Paris. Was anything under way?
"Oh, I have lots of ideas—they come and they go—but I haven't settled on anything yet. I suppose I could do a mural of the Crusaders marching on Constantinople or one showing the august body itself reuniting in plenary session, but what interest would that have for anybody? It would have none for me, I'm sure. Oh, well, I'll hit on something. Subjects are a bore, anyway. I've always said there are no subjects any more."
I brought up the question of his monumental painting Guernica, in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and suggested to him that perhaps one of the reasons it had been such a success was that it was a great subject; that he felt so keenly about Franco's bombing of Guernica, and about the whole situation in Spain at the time, that the subject helped make the picture.
He shrugged. "You may be right," he said. "Half right, anyway. Right to the extent that the events of the Spanish War had made it a picture worth painting, but I don't think it necessarily great because of whatever fire and passion you assume I put into it. There isn't always a correlation between what one feels and what comes out. Another thing—and this has always struck me as a little curious— I worked on that painting in my Paris atelier, and every chance I got to take a break, I would go out into the country for a breather. But I would begin to draw and paint from the moment I got there. And what did I paint, coming fresh from the work on Guernica? Flowers and fruit -- never anything else."
That brought to mind Proust's idea that the great artists produce only one work throughout their lifetime; or, at least, express one idea or one theme through a variety of forms—the concept of a constant, evolving unity. Picasso's work, of course, is as diversified as any in the history of art. And yet I had noticed, in viewing Clouzot's film Le Mystère Picasso, in which Picasso works at a great number of drawings and paintings under the camera's eye, that however radical the metamorphoses may appear in certain passages where the camera records his progress on a canvas periodically instead of following, as it does in other parts of the film, each movement of his hand, the unity of the work in progress is sustained throughout. Clouzot's method makes those metamorphoses appear to be instantaneous, but that is only an illusion resulting from a technique enforced by his time limits. Actually, of course, they evolve slowly from one moment—or hour—to the next. Why, then, I asked Picasso, if a major work evolves in that manner, does not the artist's work as a whole similarly evolve?
"But it does," he said.
I told him that a pronouncement he had apparently made on the subject some years ago, and which had since then been given the widest possible circulation in American modern-art circles, indicated that he thought otherwise—about his own work, at least.
He jumped up. "That's the trouble with those things," he said. " You say something one day with reference to a particular situation. People generalize from it. It gets cast in type and the next thing you know, it's a permanent and universal declaration!"
Suddenly he shook his head. "My God!" he said. "I'm going on like a philosopher today. I don't know what's got into me. I never talked like this to anyone in my life before."
Jacqueline sat up excitedly on the edge of the overstuffed club chair she didn't come close to filling. "I never heard you talk like this—I know that. I've been sitting here, all ears, just wondering how long this would go on." She looked over at me. "You're the lucky one," she said.
I agreed, but told them I felt a little unlucky, too. I said that if I'd known things were going to go off like this, I'd have brought a tape recorder along. I had thought of it but was afraid that if I showed up with one I'd scare Picasso into saying nothing.
Picasso laughed. "You did the right thing. Well, perhaps you've got a good memory. We'll see. Come on in here," he said, pointing to the salon. "I'll show you some things I've been working on recently."
WE WALKED out into the large cluttered salon and on into the room beyond it. Canvases were stacked against all the walls and most of the furniture. On the mantelpiece was a large study of two female nudes painted in warm earth tones. "That's my Salon de Mai painting," Picasso said. The facial structure of one of the women had the same type of antinaturalistic schematization as the two right-hand figures in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, the picture Picasso painted in 1906-07, now in the New York Museum of Modern Art—the painting that did more than any other to bring about what one unhappy French critic has called "the destruction of a world." Near it, on top of a packing case, stood another large canvas—taller but not so wide— of two nude women, more brutal in its "formation" than the other and painted in tones of gray against a background of ocher and earth color.
We walked over to the mantel. There were a number of ceramic tiles, about nine inches by six, that Picasso had decorated and baked only the week before: fauns, satyrs, young men, and girls. One, a head of Jacqueline, was cracked across the middle. "They cracked this taking it out of the oven," he said. "I'll fix it, though." He went over to a stack of canvases facing against the east wall. He pulled out one about three feet by four. "Here's a recent one," he said. It showed a portion of the room we were standing in, with a view out over the garden. It was a tightly packed, luxuriant composition in which elements of still life and landscape predominated, with a good deal of black heightened by strong areas of viridian and crimson. The brush strokes were laid oil in vigorous swirls. Picasso reached for another canvas behind it. It was another view of the same room looking out into the central salon. It was sparsely painted, mostly in black with a few touches of umber representing small pieces of furniture which he pointed out to me around the room. It had a sketchy appearance; there was a good deal of uncovered white space and the brush strokes were thin and hasty. Picasso moved from one stack of canvases to another, pulling out a picture, setting it up for my inspection, replacing it, pulling out another.
We were looking at a bullfight scene with much black and alizarin crimson relieved by thick yellow dots on the capes and a brilliant aquamarine sky, when a nephew of Picasso's—a small, dark man in his thirties—and his wife came in. We all chatted together for a while, and then Jacqueline and the nephew and his wife drifted over into the dining room. Picasso and I walked out through the huge glass double doors at the back of the salon onto the terrace. A large garden stretched away on two levels beginning at the foot of the steps below us. To our left I noticed an irregularly rectangular piece of mosaic work about three feet long and ten inches or so high leaning against the wall. I walked over to it and bent down to examine the figures that had been set into it. There was a fish on the left-hand side, in the center a diagonal-shaped face, and at the right a round orange object that looked a good deal like a Halloween pumpkin. Picasso came over to me.
"What do you think of that for my UNESCO wall?" he asked. "I've been fooling around with the idea of doing something like that. I've never done much of anything in mosaic before, but I'd like to try."
I told him I liked the idea fine. Better than fresco, I thought.
"I think so, too," he said. "It'll last forever— well, long enough, anyway."
I asked him when they wanted it.
"I have an idea they'd like it right away," he said. "The building is all up. Almost, at any rate. When you get back to Paris, go take a look at it. It's over by the Invalides, or the Champ de Mars. Somewhere around there."
We walked down into the garden. On the right were three old friends—in bronze—that I remembered from the exhibition of drawings and sculptures held at the Maison de la Pensée Francaise in 1950: a goat, the head of a woman, and -- most interesting of all—a life-size figure of a woman that I had christened Arabella when I first saw it because it reminded me of a dressmaker's form my grandmother had that she used to call by that name. Officially the piece is known only as Bronze.
To the left of us were three ceramic statues: two large standing Pan figures painted, here and there, in black and glazed, and a seated nude, incised, without any painting beneath the glaze. To their left was a bronze relief I had seen in the show with the other bronzes. Picasso pointed to the big ceramic figures.
"I did those for a ceramics exhibition in Vallauris last summer," he said. On the level below us, to the right, was a fountain with its water bubbling up over another bronze head from the 1950 exhibition. Over on the left I could see the twin brother of L'Homme au Mouton. I told Picasso that I had just been looking at its twin, in Vallauris, a few days before.
"Yes, we cast three of those, in fact," he said. "This one, the one in Vallauris, and a third one, in America somewhere."
We started back toward the house. Picasso's eyes lighted up. "You know," he said, "last winter we had an enormous amount of snow for this part of the country. You should have seen those statues draped in snow." He pointed over to Arabella. "Oh, she was marvelous." We walked up onto the terrace. He held his hand at a height of about a foot and a half from the floor. "It banked this high right outside the doors here. But the heat works fine and we were comfortable. This is an ugly old house but it's solid. I suppose I could have bought a modern one. But they're ugly, too—and not solid." On our left now, in the corner of the terrace, I noted a cage with two white pigeons— peace doves, I imagine— in it. We walked into the salon. Picasso pointed up over our heads. "Just look at these ceilings! And these windows! What light! What a wonderful place to work! And so much room!" He reached over to one of the radiators. "Justement," he said. "I must tell them to put the heat on. How do they expect me to work in the cold?" He went into the dining room to speak to Jacqueline.
Over in a corner near the doors to the terrace, behind a sofa taken up by a huge blood-red Spanish kite, I noticed a sculpture, half standing, half leaning, of a life-size human figure. It was not one I had seen before. I went over to it. Picasso joined me. "That's one I've been tinkering with for several years. I started it in Vallauris." I could see that he had welded pipes of one kind or another into it. He pointed out a piece of a pottery oven that had found its way into the frame. From a table beside it he picked up a key attached to another metal object. "I must get this thing in there," he said, then tossed it onto the table.
We walked across the salon, skirting a half-dozen baskets of flowers sent by friends for his birthday. Behind the flowers was a long bench covered with piles of plates. "Tests I've been making over at the kiln," Picasso said. He picked up the topmost plate from the end pile. It was a bullfight scene decorated in a kind of copper-luster finish. "I tried to get the flavor of the old Hispano-Moresque ceramics into this," he said.
I walked into the next room again to study more closely the wooden maquette of a tall, bony male figure Picasso was carving out as part of a monumental group sculpture, then made one more quick survey of the premises—the heaps and piles and stacks of work en chantier. If I didn't leave now, I'd never make the break, I felt. It would have been easier—and more gratifying—not to, but Picasso, I well knew, had work to do. I suddenly realized that I did, too. I paid my respects to the nephew and his wife. Jacqueline and Picasso threaded their way with me through the maze, and we walked slowly back across the salon and the two central halls, stopping every few feet to talk about Paul Éluard and Scott Fitzgerald and mutual friends, dead and alive.
By the time we reached the front terrace, we were making plans for a bang-up American dinner featuring—Picasso's choice—roast turkey with chestnut dressing and cranberry sauce. We shook hands. I walked down off the terrace and got into the car. "Au revoir," Picasso called out, with two full, round Spanish r's. "Bye-bye," said Jacqueline. The concierge came out of her loge and opened the massive iron curtain for me. I swung the car around and drove out through the gate. As I made the turn into the road, I caught a glimpse of them on the terrace, arm in arm, still waving.