Jan Gordon and Pablo Picasso

In March 2013 we visited the Picasso Black and White exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The range of styles on show was remarkable, from coolly classical to astonishingly abstract. "Head of a Man" 1908 looks like a Fang Ngil maskfrom Gabon. The several studies for “Guernica” reminded me of a visit to that town in 1994 (studying the nearby geology), looking quiet and peaceful on a sunny day and giving no hint of the Luftwaffe's horrific bombing in 1937.

Jan and Cora Gordon were contemporaries of Picasso in Paris and Jan Gordon wrote about him in “Modern French Painters” (1923 and later editions), a volume dedicated to my grandparents.

He wrote, “Picasso – Pablo Ruiz is his real name – is the most vivid and and the most dramatic personality which has come into the art of today.”

“Picasso may well be considered as the problem of modern art. He has bewildered the public by the variety of and the differences between his artistic phases. An exhibition of haphazard Picassos, such as that held at the Leicester galleries, looks like the work of a group of five or six men who have scarcely an obvious idea between them. Monsieur Coquiot, the often subtly malicious author of “Les Indépendants,” calls Picasso a chameleon and the epithet seems not unearned.” 

However, Jan Gordon continued, "Picasso, is a chameleon with some internal-illuminant, he often reflects a borrowed colour more strongly than he has received it.”

Marie-Thérèse, Face and Profile 1931

Jan Gordon reproduced two Picasso works in his book, "Three Nudes" and "The Red Cloth" (1922).

We walked out of the Houston exhibition of 118 works (made between 1904 and 1970) last Saturday with this same impression of Picasso as a chameleon, but also with a sense of wildly restless experimentation. 


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