Anyone familiar with Pablo Picasso knows that the artist had many liaisons, with many women, which inspired his many, artistic periods. One muse, Dora Maar–whom Picasso first spied at the celebrated Parisian café Les Deux Magots playing the knife game in gloved hands–was to be the most thought-provoking to, yet badly treated by, the well-known lover.

For Picasso, Marr was fecund in intellect and ideas. It was Marr who explained (Jean Baptiste Camille) Corot’s cliché-verre experiments to Picasso, prompting his use of photographic plates for gelatine engraving. It was Marr too, who aroused Picasso’s development of “monster” artworks: extremely disfigured subjects in emotional turmoil and terror, of which Guernica, attests as the greatest example. And it was Marr, who in her separation with Picasso by introduction of his new lover, Françoise Gilot, gave him a parting shot as a siren to all women who suit thereafter: “You don’t know what it is to love someone.”

Pablo Picasso, Femme en vert (Dora) (Woman in Green, Dora), 1944 | 51 1/5″ × 38 1/5″ | Oil on canvas | Image: Fondation Beyeler, Riehen via Artsy

As part of the exhibit, Picasso: The Artist and His Models, currently on view at Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, “Femme en vert (Dora)” 1944, epitomizes Picasso’s command of commotion largely through composition and colour. In “monster” style, the handling of the green-black paint–applied or removed–in the portrait, manages to depict pattern, anatomy of the form, and even depth, within a single space. Though in contrast to the deformed “composed” female figure, irregular strokes applied on the side and in the background of the artwork, show the same suggestion of pattern, anatomy of the form, and depth as well. In other words, Picasso’s adherence to or deviation from the shaping of his art, produce the same effect, and thus, are used intentionally, and with purpose, making conflict, however marring in Picasso’s real-life, necessary to his artistic development.

Although, on the whole, Picasso’s liaisons recede from the limelight of the Albright’s show, they make their presence known by the selection of displayed works: Marcelle Humbert (commonly, Éva Gouel) for Cubism; Olga Koklova for ballerinas and harlequins; Marie-Thérèse Walter for the arabesque, female nudes of “Vollard Suite”; Marr, “monsters” and disfigured women; Gilot for fauns and satyrs; and so forth. Unapologetically, Picasso reached for his muses just as an artist reaches for his paints, pastels; supplies to be had on-hand in case of inspiration. Did Marr, and the many other women, envisage their influence would one-day amount to one of the richest catalogues of twentieth-century art conceived and left behind by a single artist? Did they believe that ultimately, it is art that conquers all?!

Picasso: The Artist and His Models continues through Sunday, February 19, 2017.

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