Archives for posts with tag: Pablo Picasso

by Rikki

I stretch forward, elongating my neck, making the hairs that grow down onto my nape prickle,
my true horse-nature.

I’m hooves clopping on river rocks. My mane combed to one side, my angular muzzle huffing.

I’m strong and sturdy – muscle and a soft steel kind of strength. And yet at the
whistle of a windblown reed,

I’m gone,
scattered and spooked.

I trace the angles that connect weakly on my rawboned face. Strong lines
never broken never snapped,
just shifted and sifted easily.

I stand before others, pulled loosely together, unsettled in my people-clothes.
Loyal – love me.
Wild – but not too tightly.

I sit for sketches
sometimes hours sometimes minutes sometimes seconds sometimes months.

I look like a human,
solid to the fingertips of others pressing in – but

I’m a ghost.

I’m burned by the red clay of a canyon wall, shiny from the sun. My sweat reflects ribbons of
wet diamonds
at the bottom of a cold, fast river.

IMAGE: Self-Portrait by Pablo Picasso (1907).


The purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off our souls.” PABLO PICASSO

Illustration: “Lavandière” (laundress) by Pablo Picasso (1962)


Little, Brown will release Tom Wolfe‘s new novel, Back to Blood, on Tuesday, October 23rd, but the book is already #28 on Set in Miami, Back to Blood is Wolfe’s long-awaited “next book,” after what many consider a disappointing I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004).

The new novel has earned — for the most part, anyway — positive reviews for the 81-year-old Wolfe. I’ve read or scanned many of the top reviews and the bottom line is that Back to Blood is much better than I Am Charlotte Simmons, but nowhere near as great as The Bonfires of the Vanities (one of my all-time favorites).

Reading the reviews of Wolfe’s latest effort — with their many references to the similarities between The Bonfires of the Vanities and Back to Blood (racial/ethnic tensions, hedonistic characters, lots of CAPITAL LETTERS, and exclamation points!!!!, and other resemblances) — I recalled a writer’s warning I read somewhere. The cautionary words were: “You know you’ve lost your soul as a writer when you start imitating yourself.”

To me, this means you are trying to recapture some former glory or a time when writing came easily and you turned in virtuoso performances. Now, you’re rusty, so rather than find a new authentic voice, you just turn in a weak imitation of some past performance — but now the effort lacks soul.

I’m not saying this is true for Wolfe because I haven’t yet read Back to Blood (I am number 151 on the L.A. Public Library waiting list). But I think this is true for any writer. You can’t look over your shoulder at what you once were, but need to write from an authentic place — even if it’s a less impressive performance.

Several years ago, I read an art history study that examined whether famous artists produced their greatest work when young or when old. In the study, Pablo Picasso was an example of an artist who’d created his best work during his younger years (Picasso lived to be 91), and Claude Monet was cited as an artist who’d produced his greatest work when old (he lived to be 86).

While many will agree that the older Picasso sometimes tried to imitate the younger, wunderkind Picasso, no one could accuse Monet of such behavior. In fact, Monet’s later work is considered his greatest precisely because he didn’t try to imitate himself. When he was stricken with cataracts and was nearly blind, he changed his style and started to paint everything in large proportions on gigantic canvases. So, despite his physical limitations, his soul prevailed and he was able to create magnificent works of art.

But getting back to Tom Wolfe’s latest novel. It is my fervent wish that this feisty octogenarian has produced something truly great. I’m looking forward to reading the 720-page novel (Wolfe, at his best, makes the pages fly by) — maybe I’ll get to it sometime next year when my number at the library comes up.


Painting: “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet (1916) — painted when the artist was in his 70s and suffering from cataracts. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the comprehensive show of Monet’s work held in 1995 at the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum exhibited Monet’s paintings in chronological order, so that by the time I arrived at the later work (Monet painted until a few months before his death in 1926), I was dumbstruck, awestruck, and inspired that someone could create such masterworks well into “old” age.

ImageNamed “the best literary work of all time” by the World Library, DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) tells the story of a man who envisions himself as a chivalrous knight and begins to view his life as a noble adventure. Published in the author’s native Spain in 1605 to immediate acclaim, a second part appeared a decade later.

Here is an excerpt:

“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is noble, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”

“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”

“Obviously,” replied Don Quixote, “you don’t know much about adventures.” 

NOTE ON THE ABOVE ILLUSTRATION: In 1955, a publication in France (Les Lettres Françaises) commissioned Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) to create a painting for the cover of an edition celebrating the 350th anniversary of Don Quixote. In his brilliantly simple (or simply brilliant) illustration, Picasso captured the novel’s main characters and themes — Don Quixote, his horse Rocinante, his squire Sancho Panza, Sancho’s donkey Dapple, the windmills cited in the above excerpt, as well as the blazing sun of La Mancha.


We celebrate these masters from Spain — Miguel de Cervantes (from Alcalá de Henares) and Pablo Picasso (from Málaga). They continue to inspire, as evidenced by a recent entry in The Cecilia Prize, a contest established to honor Cecilia Gimenez, an amateur artist from Borja, Spain, whose restoration of a beloved fresco (Ecce Homo) has sparked controversy and conversation around the world. The entry, Ecce Quixote (shown at left), is by Gustavo Berocan of Brazil (Twitter @gugudadanews).


Life magazine photographer David Douglas Duncan — renowned for  combat photographs during the Korean War — spent the late 1950s photographing Picasso in the South of France.

In April 1957, Duncan brought his dachshund Lump to the photo session at Picasso’s villa because the dog didn’t get along with his fellow canine, an Afghan hound named Kublai Khan.

According to a New York Times article, “Lump immediately decided that this would be his new home,” Mr. Duncan recalled…“He more or less said, ‘Duncan, that’s it, I’m staying here.’…”

Picasso and Lump passed away in 1973, within one week of each other.

Duncan waited more than 30 years to publish the photographs of man and dog in PICASSO AND LUMP: A Dachshund’s Odyssey. Published by Bulfinch in 2006, the 100-page book is available from

Today, Buzzfeed ran an interesting piece called “16 Brilliant Artists and Their Animal Muses” by Summer Anne Burton. After reading the article and studying the photos of the 16 brilliant artists and their animal muses, I was struck by one idea: Three of my favorite artists — David Hockney, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol were crazy for dachshunds!

Dachsuhuds are in a class by themselves (Group 4, according to the World Canine Federation) because they’re the only canines that hunt both above and below ground. Sounds like a wonderful description for an artist’s muse — putting the work out into the world, but burrowing into the unconscious to produce it.

Here are some charming photos of the three famous doxie lovers.


David Hockney took his dachshunds Stanley and Boodgie everywhere — and loved to draw and paint his beloved companions.


Andy Warhol featured his dachshunds Archie (pictured above) and Amos in many of his works.


Pablo Picasso adored his dachshund Lump (German for “rascal”), who lived to age 16. 


Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” PABLO PICASSO

Photo: D. Bachmann (detail of vault of the apse of St. Climent de Taull in Catalonia)