• gerard van weyenbergh

Picasso, 1921, becomes father, prolific year

Updated: Jun 22

Paul, Picasso's first son, was born in the middle of winter, February 4, 1921. Everyone calls him Paulo, and he left the image of a somewhat unfinished, elegant and affable man, who liked to go to bistros. He stopped school going at age 15, but he was fortunate enough to be trained in his adolescence by poet Jacques Prévert. Paul, who must have been impressed in his childhood by the monumental Hispano-Suiza of his father, loved beautiful cars, which he registered 21. He also, for a time, organized bullfights, incited by his father. After the war, Picasso gave him the Château de Boisgeloup, found in 1946 in poor condition.


This birth corresponds to a peaceful period for the artist. The summer spent in a house rented in Fontainebleau, Picasso multiplied the maternity drawings, inhabited with great sweetness, in a classic style. For his son, he painted cars, cut animals, made a gallery window in a frame. Picasso will paint portraits of the child full of tenderness, representing him on his wooden horse. He also uses it as a model, making him wear a Pierrot or Harlequin costume, betraying an air of boredom in the session. However, the artist never figures himself alongside his son, and Pierre Daix, who has little sympathy for Olga, finds that he always seems more radiant than the mother.

These years were difficult for Picasso's wife. The photographs reveal the love that this Slavic mother had for her child. But she is very busy with her family's plight in war-torn Russia and Serbia. Her father, an officer, has disappeared. One of his brothers reappears in October 1921.

Despite the family difficulties that will follow, Picasso's grandson, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, emphasizes that Paul "has remained very close to his father all his life." "The pictures Picasso painted of him are full of tenderness, and the famous portrait in Harlequin perfectly defines my father," he told us. The two men got closer after the war, the artist employing his son as a driver, but also for missions of trust. "Being Picasso's son, recognizes Bernard Picasso, is not easy, but their connivance was real. Paul was present alongside his father and, in a way, he protected him from intruders who were not lacking in the fifties and sixties. "

A year rich in creation

1921 was a great year for an artist prolific by nature. He performs still lifes and landscapes, traces Ingresque portraits of Olga or paints his face with dark circles like a portrait of Fayoum, populates his paintings of hieratic characters, evoking ancient Egyptian figures, makes giants run on the beach. He worked a long time at the painting "three women at the fountain".

Picasso has not forgotten the Ballets Russes. On May 17, the municipal theater of La Gaîté opened the inaugural gala of Cuadro Flamenco, with flamenco artists, including Diaghilev's dear star Mariá Dalbaicín, whom he brought back from a trip to Seville with Stravinsky and Kochno. The choreographer had first thought of Juan Gris for the sets and costumes, but, pressed for time, asked Picasso to reuse a project abandoned the previous year. In debt, Diaghilev, affected by commercial failures in London, will cut the decor to sell it in pieces.

Cubist art dispersed by the Germans.

It was also a terrible year for Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Picasso's merchant before the war. Monday, June 13, opens the first sale of its stock labeled as "German property." Kahnweiler will pay twice the love he carries to France since he will be despoiled first as a German and later as a Jew. "Léonce, bastard!" Léonce Rosenberg, the sales expert, is aggressed at the entrance to Drouot auction house. In four sales, over three years, more than 800 cubist works will be dispersed. On May 31, the State also auctioned off the collection confiscated from Wilhelm Uhde, which includes 12 Picasso and 20 Braque.

Picasso is already an artist recognized by the market.

His paintings sell even at Wildenstein in New York.

Maurice Raynal signs the first monography.

Drouot's sales include works from the blue or pink period, but Picasso appears above all as the great figure of cubism, dear to Kahnweiler. His new merchant, Paul Rosenberg, who took the place of his brother Léonce, more interested in recent classic production, paid him more than 120,000 francs in 1921, double the previous year. He installed Picasso in an apartment adjoining the gallery, rue La Boétie. The couple can hire domestic staff.

Close to the artistic and intellectual milieu, Picasso kept his distance from the Roaring Twenties. His social advancement opens up new horizons for him. In its creation, he never stops opening new fields of exploration.