In Spain they love to eat. And when the most famous modern Spaniard, Picasso, sits down at the dinner table it would be easy to imagine it as an excessive affair. For the Malaga-born painter was a glutton.
He consumed women one after another and seized upon images from his time that he then compulsively adapted. Until 10 September the Picasso museum in Barcelona is seating Pablo at the dinner table. It’s the title of the exhibition.
To provide a brilliant accompaniment, the museum has asked Spain’s most famous chef, Ferran Adrià (one of the great practitioners of molecular gastronomy and considered to be one of the best chefs in the world) to explain in the catalogue what he thinks of Picasso, whose creativity fascinates him. When he talks, Adrià possesses an intensity that we imagine might be similar to that of the painter:
So imagine our surprise to discover at the Barcelona exhibition that the gluttonous Picasso was in fact a fairly moderate eater.
As Emmanuel Guigon, the director of the museum, explains, “he drank water more readily than wine and he consumed simple things in small quantities. The grocery receipts that are featured in the exhibition attest to this”.
No great orgies of food worthy of a Renaissance feast. No bloody haunches of meat like we find in Rembrandt or Soutine.
“Picasso did two things in life to excess: he painted and he made love”.
So what’s the relevance of Picasso and food as a subject? The museum director’s answer is simple: “actually the subject is present throughout his entire oeuvre. He was 14 years old when he painted a kitchen interior and he painted the kitchen again in a large composition from 1948 that can be seen in the exhibition. The kitchen is another image for the studio. And he is the chef”.
“The Restaurant” from 1901 depicts a table in an almost classical style filled with colourful foodstuffs symbolizing bourgeois comfort.
The most beautiful room in this accomplished exhibition is dedicated to Picasso’s purely cubist period.
In 1909, for example, he painted bread, bottles and fruit which bear closer resemblance to a landscape in hues of yellow, green and grey.
Food is one subject among many that isn’t associated with desire but rather with the study of deconstructed volumes. During the war, due to the shortage of provisions, he would nevertheless, fantasize about seafood platters to the point of eventually producing this still life from October 1946 in which the octopus, eel, sole and sea urchins seem to be engaged in a macabre dance across the table top.
In the space in the exhibition dedicated to his ceramic works, he fills the plates with images of foodstuffs with sausages, eggs and fish moulded onto the plate.
For in fact this unruly genius of painting had a childlike desire to play with food.
You only have to read his play written in four days in 1941 when rationing was in full force to understand. In “Desire Caught by the Tail” ( Le désire attrapé par la queue) the heroes are an onion and a tart.
Of the latter he writes:
“While her beauty excites me and her smell drives me wild, her table manners, her way of dressing and her affected mannerisms annoy me”.
An excellent conclusion. A classic mouthful of Picasso.
Until 30 September