11 October 2011

Kahnweiler's Boon

AS I MENTIONED in the last post, one painting in particular jumped out at me when I was last at the Institute. A little lie. Another one did too, but not as boldly. They're totally different from each other, though stylistically Chagall's White Crucifixion follows the trajectory of this one.

Picasso's Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1910) was the first to grab my attention. Kahnweiler was an important person in Picasso's life, not least because as an art dealer (he's also an under-appreciated art historian) he championed Pablo's new, 'radical' style (Cubism) and thus worked tirelessly to promote his and other's (almost always those who had no audience or collectors) works in his gallery in Montparnasse.

Picasso wrote of Kahnweiler, "What would have become of us if Kahnweiler hadn't had a business sense?"

What, indeed. Creatives would starve if not for the Kahnweiler's of this world.

In this portrait, the subject has been fractured into various planes and shapes, and is presented from several points of view. From flickering, partially transparent planes of brown, gray, black, and white emerges his upper torso, hands clasped in his lap. Typical of cubist art, Picasso, is inviting us to examine the figures and shapes that are broken down and recombined in totally new ways.

The reason this painting has stuck with me is hard to articulate, however. There's something slightly pensive about it, and, being the melancholic type, it spoke into my life and hasn't let go. I'm no art critic, so no doubt much more could be said about this piece. I am, however, an aspiring theologian, and, like all good theologians ought, I'm going to resist shape-shifting this into some pious point or another, but rather enjoy a little art for art's sake.


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