CreditsDirector: Michel Le Bayon
Catalog number # 531
26 minutes Color
Age Range: 14 to Adult
Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript
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In his Mougins retreat in the south of France, where he lived with his wife Jacqueline, Pablo Picasso painted a self-portrait shortly before his death in 1973, showing himself with a beard, which he had never worn.
Why this tragic fiction, which for several years had been recurring like a leitmotif?
Probably because Picasso wanted, one last time, to see himself in the guise of his father, who he readily admitted was the figure behind his bearded characters, probably because he wanted to see himself in the guise of a dead man, but possibly also to let us know that only his eye was immortal. It was the start of a terrible game that was to involve the two lovers until their deaths. A game of reflections, an unrelenting game that Picasso called in Spanish la Mira Fuerte, the Powerful Eye.
Picasso's eye is indeed immortal, hence protean. It is the eye of the woman with the pillow, a moving successor to Goya's Naked Maya, Goya whose signature Picasso forged as an eighteen-year-old art student in Barcelona. It was in the Catalan capital that Picasso discovered women, who were to continue to haunt his whole life, as we learn from the writer Pierre Daix, an expert on the artist's work.
And it is accompanying this polymorphous Jacqueline that the bearded character appears, now disturbing, now innocent, seeming to subject her to his every whim, one after another.
Immodestly, before our eyes, an ambiguous relationship unfolds between the artist and his model. It is the relationship of watcher and watched.
And the person watched is none other than his wife Jacqueline, whom he met in the evening of his life and whom he made both the accomplice and the potential prize of a voyage of discovery that passed through every distortion, every transformation. Picasso almost threw himself bodily into a quest that was to lead him to break every rule, every canon in the aesthetic book. It was the upshot of sixty years' work, but the energy for it he drew from the love of this thirty-year-old woman, Jacqueline Roques.
The fruit of their relationship was to be a complete renewal of Picasso's art. Jacqueline with roses and Jacqueline with hands crossed are the true beginning of what has come to be known as Pablo Picasso's last period.
Pablo had met Jacqueline in the little ceramicists' shops in the village of Vallauris, then on the verge of ruin. It was about to be reinstated in that ceramics became, for Picasso, the source of a language of love.
And that love, which many regarded as scandalous, promptly displayed itself as such in front of the camera of a former war correspondent, the American David Douglas Duncan, who was to spend more than a year sharing the couple's private life.
As the key personage in this virtually hermitic existence, Jacqueline was painted in a thousand different ways, as if not a day went by without the artist, at one time or another, declaring his love for her.
This piercing eye, this mira fuerte, had been Picasso's from birth. In 1898, living in Barcelona, he filled his notebooks with sly or knowing looks, passing smoothly, without transition, from caricature to realistic transcriptions of everyday life. Already we can talk in terms of ' voyeurism, a theme he was to return to with a vengeance in the great series of etchings he did in the Sixties, assisted by Aldo Crammelynck.
Giving a realistic account of his environment never interested Picasso. The aim of his experiments, starting with the Cubist drawings, was to offer the viewer a different reality, often a more poignant one, Picasso's vision sought above all to look inward. Shapes possessed strength in his eyes only when they made possible an accession to other dimensions, other ideas, not when they represented barriers thrown up by one or another kind of academicism.
Picasso was a man of passion, a true Spaniard. If he loved Jacqueline, if he loved Mougins, if he loved the bullring, it was partly because through them he was able to make an inner pilgrimage, a return to his sources that inevitably led him back to the barrios of Barcelona, where he learned all he knew - and where today there is a museum dedicated to his fame.
When he died in 1973, Picasso left his muse alone among her portraits, alone amid a myriad reflections and rapt looks. For Jacqueline, the time of solitude had begun.
But the eye was too powerful, the vision too strong. Jacqueline, left face to face with herself in the silent, deserted studio, little by little lost all attachment to life and eventually succumbed to despair.
In the end, one October evening in 1978, a single gunshot carried the model off to rejoin her artist in that other world they had so often visited during their lifetime.
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