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Feminine chuckles, a few scattered laughs, and now and then a rather intelligent remark, are combined in such a way as to form a vocal accompaniment to the thematic display of Pablo Picasso's paintings in the Boston Museum. Picasso is not, as one critic put it, an "enfant terrible"; he is a very fine artist who is intelligent enough to warrant being called the most original cclectic in the history of art.
To one who may visit the museum for the sake of judging personally the value of the artist, I suggest that not too much attention be paid to the division of Picasso's work into periods. For the "period" classification, though entirely justifiable as a reflection of what Picasso actually did, makes one, subconsciously perhaps, judge his work according to the aims and standards of each period; what we really want, however, is a more comprehensive judgment, one which is based upon what we think art should be rather than what Picasso or the exhibit catalogue thinks art should be.
In a recent article on Picasso in the Kenyon Review, Wyndham Lewis refers to the figures in "Two Seated Women" as "empty, pneumatic giantesses." He goes on to say that these nude women have neither a plastic nor a pictorial justification. Mass, he adds, can be conveyed more successfully be other methods. Now Mr. Lewis, an artist himself, should know better than to make such statements. In the first place, who said that Picasso was trying to convey mass? No one except Mr. Lewis and the catalogue which accompanied the exhibit. And both are mistaken. Rather than enter upon an "a priori" discussion of what the artist intended to convey by examining the painting, I shall tell briefly what the artist has conveyed and give Picasso the benefit of the doubt by saying that he intended it. We must not take "period" catchwords nor catalogue quotations as standards by which a painting can be judged. No work of art should be criticized according to the intent of the artist or on the basis of what other people may list as the artist's aims. We must see what has been accomplished, then rest happily.
In this particular painting, "Two Seated Women," Picasso expresses the weightless, mystical connection between the two figures. Because of the undynamic quality of the large but precise limbs, there is an unearthy, lustless feeling of the abstract in the painting. The position of the bodies, the obvious difference in type between the women, and the highly successful use of color, lead one to believe that far from being vacuous, the painting is an excellent expression of what can be called "otherworldliness." We are faced with an unreal, but somehow true work of art.
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