"In this installation, Elwes deals with the most prodigious artist of our time during one of his most intense phases of creativity. In the mid-fifties, Picasso had just fallen in love with his last wife Jaqueline. His great rival Matisse had recently died, and he had no one to compete with. Luckily, Jaqueline's face reminded him of one of the women in Delacroix's masterpiece, 'Women of Algiers,' and thus began a series ofpaintings in which Picasso pitted his talents against those of the old master. Suddenly, the whole ground floor of his villa was filled to the brim with portraits of Jaqueline interspersed with representations of himself as bull, owl, goat and satyr. Elwes' work describes a period after April, 1956 when Picasso had just completed several paintings of his own studio, a rare occurrence. He then made an amazing painting of his muse in his studio. In that painting, Jaqueline is looking at a blank canvas on an easel. It is a meditation on the making of art."
extract from an essay by Fred Hoffman (Curator of the Basquiat retrospectives at MOCA and the Brooklyn Museum)
Each month, the Madoura Pottery would deliver several crates of ceramics, and this is where most of them were unpacked and painted. Sydney Picasso spent several hours examining the installation and told me many stories about the details. On the right above the sofa, there is a bullfight painting made by Claude Picasso for his father with the inscription, "pour mon papa cheri." Above that is a painting of a bowl of cherries which was a secret portrait of Claude's mother, Francoise Gilot. On the the sofa rests a kite which Picasso made for Paloma and Claude. In the center of the room, Picasso is taking apart the children's stroller in order to create a sculpture.
"These paintings are literally a feast for the eye and mind. Each of Elwes’ paintings is the result of copious research, from which he has assembled all extant documentation on any and every item which Picasso surrounded himself with. These include all the notebooks, sketches, African masks, works in production (such as paintings, prints, ceramics and sculpture), as well as gifts from friends, articles of clothing and even artworks by his own children. All of these 'things' have been included in Elwes’ work with the goal of accurately documenting the conditions in which the master worked."
(extract from an essay by Fred Hoffman)
The entire painting wraps around three walls. This image shows half of it.
In the center is a mirrored door. To the right is a painting called "The Shadow." In that painting, Francoise Gilot is asleep on a sofa the day before she left Picasso. He entered the room, and his shadow fell over her body. On the left easel is a painting of his new wife sitting in the rocking chair looking at an empty canvas on the easel.
This is the other side of the painting studio. On the mantlepiece, there are two bottles of absinthe and a sculpture of a boy's head that was in Picasso's Bateau Lavoir studio fifty years earlier. On the sculpture stand to the right, there is a red, toy bus made for his children. The chair in the center is now on display at the Picasso Museum in Paris. On the chair is a newspaper which Picasso used as his palette. The newspaper absorbed the oil from his colors allowing them to dry far more rapidly. This was how Picasso was able to produce so many paintings.
On the easel to the left is a print of "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." The work surrounding it seems to be influenced by that painting. Jacqueline, dressed as one of Delacroix's "Women of Algiers," appears in two paintings and in three ceramic plates on the floor. The other ceramics are of goats, owls, bulls and satyrs, creatures that Picasso identified with.
There is a book of poems by Rimbaud on the table by the window. In the corner of the room is sculpture made out of pipes. Some artworks in this painting (like that sculpture in the corner and the kite on the sofa) have not survived the test of time.
On the chair to the left is a painting by Picasso of his studio. On the chair in the center is a painting of his wife in the studio looking at a painting of the studio on an easel.
On the shelf in the center of the wall, there is a bust of Dora Maar, an African sculpture, a bird cage and a gold clock that was a gift from Picasso's art dealer, Daniel Henry Kahnweiler.
Tiles that Picasso and his daughter Paloma have painted are displayed on the table. On the right wall is another little painting by Paloma of her step-mother, a bullfight announcement, a boomerang and the famous "Bull's Head" sculpture made from a bicycle seat and handlebars. Throughout this painting there are French newspapers from April, 1956 that can actually be read.