Picasso, the king of Arena

1 février 2017

Bullrings, picadores and their banderillas, bullfighters… incontestably, bullfighting is one of the most recurring themes of Pablo Picasso’s work.

The Arena of Passions

Sitting in the stone steps of an arena heated all day by this sun that stunned Spain, a little boy who just blow his eighth candle sets his eyes for the first time on a world that will influence his life and more and more. Already familiar with races of bulls, next to his father that day, the young Pablo Picasso discovers the “corrida” in Malaga. Beated with force, the future artist is fascinated by the bestiality and theatrical brutality that emanates from the fight with the bull. This passion, Pablo Picasso, the child of Spain, will be committed to it until the end of his life. After arenas of Malaga, it is in France, in Arles, Nimes, Vallauris and throughout the South, that he will continue to follow avidly bullfights and ferias.

The theme of bullfighting appears very early and for a long time in his work. Smitten with the animal, as a child, he represents it on wood, later it will become a recurring subject in painting, in drawing, in engraving and even in sculpture. Pablo Picasso's first work on the subject is a bullfighting scene dating from 1889, entitled "Petit picador jaune". One discovers a man adorned with gold that seems disfigured on his black horse... but we forgive the artist who was only 8 years old at the time! Later, his drawings, but also his most striking canvases, such as "Course de taureaux" and "Scène de corrida", made in 1901 on his arrival in Paris, will testify of Picasso's visceral attachment to the world of bullfighting, far from his native land. Picasso is the artist who will contribute most to popularize this practice, little known in France, between 1910 and 1930 in the stands of different arenas personalities like Georges Braque, Max Jacob, Robert Desnos, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Paul Eluard and René Char. He tries to transmit this fascination for the violence of the confrontation of bodies: the one of the bullfighter, in his dance with the bull, but also the one of the bull that threatens the horse of the picador at any moment. It was in the 1930s that bullfighting became a frenetic subject at the limit of obsession for Picasso.

Under the sign of the bull

The painting "La Mort du torero", of 1933, is the perfect example of the interpretation of bullfighting by Picasso. One finds there, in a carnal entanglement in the middle of the arena, the body of the horse, its picador, the one of the bull and the prowling death. What is certain is that the horse is a main figure of the bullfight for Picasso. Represented as a victim, in front of the primitive force expressed by the bull in this painting, it is found a few years later in the famous "Guernica", where it is eviscerated, twisting its neck in a neighing of pain. The arenas of bullfighting are ingeniously represented in the decoration of the ceramics that the artist created in Vallauris, in the high country of Nice. The elliptical shape of the plate coincides perfectly with the one of the arena which represents it. The picador is a central element of the fight, which he magnifies in a superb series of drawings in ink in 1959. But the figure of the bullfight that haunts and truly lives Picasso's work is undoubtedly the bull. So much so the artist often makes it a full subject in many of his works, such as canvases, engravings and other ceramics. The horned animal took a considerable importance in the 1930s when Picasso brought out the frightening figure of the Minotaur. In his eyes, this straight creature disembarked from Greek mythology, half-man, half-bull, is the perfect incarnation of the bestial and human duality that he carries within him. From the bull that fascinated his childish eyes, he makes the Minotaur a pictorial and imaginary double, a being governed by his sexual urges that express themselves brutally. The animal becomes the central figure of drawings and engravings, "Le Minotaure et la jeune fille" (1934-1936) is the perfect example and a part of a series of works commonly gathered on the title of Minotauria.

Accompanied throughout his life by bullfighting, Pablo Picasso illustrated in 1930 the Metamorphoses of Ovid, realized in 1933 the cover of the first issue of the surrealist magazine "Minotaure" founded by Georges Bataille. He made in 1953, with his friend the torero Luis Miguel Dominguin, the work Toros y toreros. Impossible not to think of the famous assembly of a handlebar and a saddle of bike skillfully realized in 1942... with the shape of a head of bull. But also the numerous ceramics of Vallauris adorned with the head or the eye of the animal. The most surprising artwork was released in 1945 and represents a series of prints made by the lithographer Fernand Mourlot. In eleven masterful stages, Pablo Picasso evolves his bull from a massive and realistic representation towards an elementary form of his silhouette by a simple stroke. One passion that will make Pablo Picasso says "If I had not been a painter, I would have been a picador". But it's better to draw the bulls rather than kill them.

Perrotte or listening to oneself

"My influences are initially largely related to Miro, I always liked the shapes and the colors of this artist. Also inspired by Picasso, I make some paintings of bullfight that give me joy once finished.” Perrotte is a Catalan painter installed in Toulouse whose artistic universe is the one of a passionate. He sees Art wherever there is emotion. He considers each of his artworks as a personal journey. He intends to make the soul of the spectator vibrate through his bottoms, shapes and features that create opulent combinations of colors. Self-listening and instinct then become essential, and the result gives real adventures where each one can succeed in capturing the emotion of the painter.

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