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Eighteen-year-old Pablo Picasso, then Pablo Ruiz, premiered his painting Last Moments at the 1900 Paris World Fair.

Initially, the painting didn’t leave much of an impression, and years later was thought to be lost. Thanks to technology we now know that it wasn’t lost, he just painted this masterpiece titled La Vie or The Life over it. Realistically, it makes sense for an impoverished artist, like Picasso was at the time, to paint over an old painting because canvas was expensive. That very well could be the only reason he painted over it. But, it’s also easy to read into the emotional significance of Picasso choosing to bury that particular painting. Last Moments was a painting of his sister who passed away when he was thirteen. He had promised her that if she lived he would give up painting forever.

As most everyone knows, he continued his painting career and possibly carried a great deal of guilt about doing so. La Vie also memorialized a recent death in his life. Picasso's close friend Carles Casagemas was rejected by Germaine Pichot, the woman he was deeply in love with/unrequitedly obsessed with. Casagemas didn’t take it well, inviting her and a group of his friends to a cafe in Paris for a farewell dinner. At the end of dinner, he tried to shoot Germaine, missed, and shot himself in the head.

Picasso was a few countries away at the time. A short time later, Picasso returned to Paris alone and began his famous Blue period. La Vie and The Old Guitarist are his best-known works from this time. Several of the paintings centered around or featured Casamegas in some way such as The Death of Casamegas. The nude man being embraced by a woman in La Vie is Casamegas and the woman is likely based on Germaine who Picasso also depicted in At the Lapin Agile. Though interestingly enough the nude man began as Picasso himself in his preliminary sketches.

Though in poverty at the time, La Vie was a financial success for Picasso and sold only days after completion.

Sources

Sources

  1. Blier, Suzanne Preston. Picassos Demoiselles, the Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece. Durham: Duke University Press, 2019.
  2. Flam, Jack D. Matisse and Picasso: the Story of Their Rivalry and Friendship. Cambridge, MA: Icon Edition/Westview Press, 2004.
  3. McNeese, Tim. Pablo Picasso. New York, NY: Chelsea House Publishers, 2006.
  4. Robinson, William H., Falgàs Jordi, Carmen Belen Lord, and Josefina Alix Trueba. Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006.
  5. Walther, Ingo F., Paul OBrien, and Pablo Picasso. Pablo Picasso. West Germany: Benedikt Taschen, 1986.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about La Vie (painting)

La Vie (Zervos I 179) is a 1903 oil painting by Pablo Picasso. It is widely regarded as the pinnacle of Picasso's Blue Period.

The painting is in the permanent collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Description and history

La Vie (The Life) was painted in Barcelona in May 1903. It is 196.5 by 129.2 centimetres (6.45 ft × 4.24 ft) and portrays two pairs of people, a naked couple confronting a mother bearing a child in her arms. In the background of the room, apparently a studio, there are two paintings within the painting, the upper one showing a crouching and embracing nude couple, the lower one showing a lonesome crouching nude person very similar to Sorrow by Vincent Van Gogh. With this Picasso repainted another motif, a birdsman who attacks a reclining naked woman, traces of which are visible to the naked eye. Preparatory studies are: Private collection, Zervos XXII 44; Paris, Musée Picasso, MPP 473; Barcelona, Museu Picasso, MPB 101.507; Barcelona, Museu Picasso, MPB 101.508.

It was painted at a time when Picasso was having no financial success. In contrast, the new painting sold only a month after it was finished, to a French art dealer, Jean Saint Gaudens. The sale was reported in the Barcelona newspaper, Liberal. With La Vie Picasso repainted the canvas of The derniers Moments from 1899, a painting that he had presented at the Paris International Exhibition 1900.

The painting was given by the Hanna fund to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio in 1945 and is in their permanent collection.

In 2020, the painting was loaned to the Royal Academy of Arts in London as part of the 'Picasso and Paper' exhibition, where it was displayed with preparatory drawings and other works on paper exploring corresponding themes of poverty, despair and social alienation.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about La Vie (painting).