Was Picasso Spiritual? Part 1


When Picasso visited Montparnasse
He ate only oranges
Or maybe it was the orangutans who
   ate all the oranges
I am not a historian, but a
I color the orangutans magenta
Picasso I cut into small numbered strips
Assigning a color to each according to the
   yarrow stalks
Which are not from Montparnasse
But I understand the birds there
Remind one of saxophones.

So begins a poem about Picasso. But was Picasso spiritual? The question is simplistic and could easily be answered yea or nay based on arbitrary criteria, facts marshalled, or works cited. A more interesting question is: What is there that’s spiritual in the works of Picasso? He was an extremely prolific artist, so this could be the subject of a book-length manuscript. Let’s examine a few facets of his work.

Pablo Picasso, "The Old Guitarist," 1903

Pablo Picasso, “The Old Guitarist,” 1903

I’ve always loved his Old Guitarist ever since I first acquired a cheap print of it as a teen. I don’t suppose I’m much of an ascetic; still, I used to practice guitar until my fingers sported calluses, which was a status symbol among the crazed guitarists of the period. If you claimed to be a guitarist, other guitarists would grab your left hand and examine the fingers carefully. “Yeah, you’re a guitarist,” they would grudgingly admit, as if granting entrance to a secret club whose members all bore the same tattoo. Continue reading