Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Artsy Wednesday: Picasso the Art Historian

Guess what? This is my 700th post! It's the first time I've noticed when I was writing a "milestone" post. Seven hundred. Wow that's a lot of hours, huh?

So I suppose, since this is my 700th post, that it's only fitting that it's the first "and how, exactly, is this about food?" post that I've written in a while. Don't worry, if you just hang in there, it'll be about food.

In yesterday's Washington Post, Blake Gopnik reviewed a Picasso exhibit that was surely designed to personally torment me. Spread across Paris, at the Musee d'Orsay, the Louvre and the Grand Palais, the exhibit is called "Picasso and the Masters" and it is, in Gopnik's words, "not so much about Picasso the artist as Picasso the art historian."

At this point in the article, Gopnik begs his readers not to ditch him - but how could they? (Oh, not everybody's an art history geek, you say? OK then.) The exhibit places recognized masterpieces alongside Picasso's works - sometimes studies of the original painting itself (Picasso, late in his career, painted 41 versions of Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe) and sometimes with works in which the influence is less explicitly obvious.

I emailed the article to Erin and Libby - Erin replied with an immediate suggestion that we go to Paris (alas, not very practical, especially since she's going to Egypt in a few weeks). It's not really an exhibit that could travel, but wow. Wouldn't it be amazing to see? I'd even love to read the catalog.

OK, so how is this about food? Well, there's the obvious: half the article is dedicated to Dejeuner sur l'herbe, which is all about a picnic.

But here's the less obvious answer: Chefs, like painters, are influenced by their predecessors and studying that influence is a pretty fascinating subject. The article also dedicates some column inches to reminding the reader that Picasso, even in old age, was relentlessly competitive and full of ego. Sounds chef-like, huh?

As Gopnik notes, Picasso is also a painter who, by embracing cubism, broke with thousands of years of painterly tradition. As I've mentioned here before, I see a parallel between cubism and molecular gastronomy. Ferran Adria as Picasso?

Just like last week, when I wrote about modern art and molecular gastronomy, I'm having a sort of "too. many. ideas." problem - it's difficult for me to be articulate when I'm just so excited.

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