A month-by-month journey through Picasso’s ‘year of wonders’


The Picasso exhibition, currently showing at the Tate Modern, begins with and lingers on this quote from Picasso:

‘Essentially there is only love. Whatever it may be.

For almost a decade from the late 1920s, Picasso had a secret lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The tension in his marital life gave way to some of his most accomplished works and turned 1932, when Marie-Thérèse was 22, into his ‘year of wonders’.

Paintings of Marie are in sensual colour harmonies; jovial, innocent and romantic. Though many of these paintings are nudes, they explore the female body in an un-perverse and innocent way – through soft, feminine colours and organic curves. Seeing these works together as a collection gives new meaning to this abstract form of artistic communication.

Picasso wasn’t in the habit of painting from live models, so the paintings are dreamlike, surrealist and from his mind’s eye, showing his lover always with a relaxed pose, reclining, with a calm facial expression. The softness, tenderness, and sexuality of his feelings to his subject are depicted in sometimes rushed and hurried brushstrokes. An X-ray of ‘Nude Woman in a Red Armchair’ reveals that it was almost certainly executed in a single fast-paced session. 

 The exhibition left me imagining and romancing – even though there was a dark underside to Picasso’s affair – with the adultery coming to light and the birth of an illegitimate child – it was his loving eye that enabled him to create works with a reinvented hand.