The Museum of the History of Immigration in Paris offers an exhibition on a rarely developed, not to say unknown, theme: that of Pablo Picasso, a shunned artist and presumed anarchist.
When he arrived in 1900, in a xenophobic France that had just emerged from the Dreyfus Affair, he was only 19 years old, but his talent had already earned him the right to present a painting at the Universal Exhibition.
At the time, he did not speak French and was living in great precariousness with his only friends, Catalans, which meant that he was under constant surveillance by the French police, who qualified him as an anarchist from the outset, and this for decades. Classified as a modern-day "Fiché S", write the authors of the exhibition catalog.
For forty years he would evolve between artistic effervescence and murderous wars and would be successively labeled a Catalan anarchist, a Spanish republican and a communist, denigrated as an avant-gardist and hounded and humiliated "with the sole crime of being a foreigner" says historian Annie Cohen-Solal ("A foreigner named Picasso")
Although tracked down by the police in the bars of Montmartre, Picasso was never imprisoned even though he had to go to a police station every two years to have his fingerprints taken.
This focused journey to the heart of a little-known Picasso, sheds light on some of his paintings, sculptures, drawings, photos, documents and rare archives, including letters from his mother, Maria Picasso y Lopez.
This journey also reveals the evolution of his work in mirror with other excluded from society and his friendship with Max Jacobs and Guillaume Apollinaire, or the admiration that Rainer Maria Rilke had for him.
However, he managed to make a living from his art from 1908, relying on his network of artist friends, art dealers and collectors, most of whom were also expatriates.
He acquired notoriety and wealth in many Western countries: before the First World War in Europe, then from the interwar period in the United States.
But in France he is still despised and ignored, except by the police. Rare are the critics who appreciate his talent and his work. Museums, crushed by a persistent academicism, shunned him and his buyers were expatriate collectors, such as the couple Leo and Gertrude de Stein.
In 1914, the French government sequestered 700 works from his Cubist period that were housed with his friend, the art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiller; these works were dispersed in a mock auction and their traces were lost for nearly ten years.
He acquired international artistic and political fame in 1937, when he painted Guernica, a manifestation of his commitment to the Spanish republicans; also when he applied (finally....) in 1940 for French nationality for fear of being deported, his application was refused.
Picasso did not leave France for all that.
The new political times following the Liberation of France allowed him to enter the French public collections in 1947 and he settled permanently in the south of France from 1950 onwards.
In spite of a calmer atmosphere, he refused all the honors offered by a country in which he had lived for nearly 70 years: for he had "only his studio for a country".
Source : Annie Cohen-Solal, Commissaire de l’exposition.