The works in this ground-breaking book include erotic drawings - formal and informal - sketches in notebooks hidden in drawers and private collections, and occasionally paintings and sculptures. Essays by an international team of scholars analyze the primeval notion of desire in Picasso's work, of artist to model, as well as his relation to voyeurism and exhibitionism. Whether through playful or hallucinatory forms, Picasso's representations of the desiring and desired body have become a pivotal moment in the history of twentieth century art.
Produced to accompany a major exhibition in Paris, Montreal and Barcelona, "Picasso Erotique" is a unique examination of the central theme in Picasso's work.
Clair's own "The School of Darkness" is a heady and passionate appreciation of Picasso. He contributes right off to the decades-old debate regarding Picasso's view and treatment of women. He defends the artist and the man, rejecting portrayals of Picasso as " the ogre, the dark demon, the wife-eating Minotaur," quoting writer Micheline Sauvage's words on Don Juan: "Not the profaner of love, but the hero of profane love." Picasso possessed energy and drive that included prodigious eating, drinking, sexual expression, writing, the production of art, and more art.
Housekeeping out of the way, Clair's essay grows into something remarkable: part biography, part chant. If you read it aloud you might well amaze and delight yourself and your listener.
Annie Le Brun's "Painting in the Bedroom" successfully places Picasso's erotic sensibilities and drive in context and in comparison to other painters, whom she asserts (and proves) shared traits with Picasso. 'Diamond Made of All the Love of the Loves of Blood,' (the title comes from a diary entry of the artist) by Marie-Noelle Delorme is a fabulous compilation, effectively and subtlely organized, that shows Picasso the energetic and larger-than-life diarist - a passionate and powerful writer on love, bodies, intimate landscapes, and much more.
The illustrations - a "Chronological Catalogue of Exhibited Works," fill over 200 pages. The layout and the colors are good and the plates are big enough. There are oil paintings, etchings, drawings in pencil, colored pencil, chalk, ink, and charcoal; aquatint, drypoint, etchings; sculptures in wood, plaster, clay and bronze - and more. The earliest drawing is a copulation scene, "Donkey and She-Ass," done by a nine-year old Picasso - who as a schoolboy was already drawing confidently and well and, it can be argued, had already found his voice.
The works are of men, women, animals together, animals with people, blind men, lovers, voyeurs, brothel scenes, outsized genitalia, mythological beasts and people, nudes in classical poses, Cubist paintings on erotic themes, sketches of solicitude and tenderness and caring, playfully altered pin-ups from the 50's, visions of sexuality altered but undimmed by old age, and much more.
By virtue of its twelve strong, smart, passionate essays, and its 300 plates, this book becomes much more than the sum of its parts. Very worthwhile, and a great read.