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a close call

Thurthday, continued … BK suggested we try again, late, to get into the Picasso Museum, and sure enough, when we got there at 6.45, there was no line-up at all. What a treat – the collection focusses on his earliest work, starting when he was fourteen, just beginning and yet already pretty good – a lovely little oil of five birds, a study of hands, portraits of his friends, doodles, and then some great classic portraits and scenes. Picasso’s father was an artist and encouraged and taught his son, who in his early teens went to art school in Madrid. Eventually he felt he wasn’t learning anything new, dropped out and spent months at the Prado, copying the masters, mostly, of course, Velasquez, El Greco and Goya. There’s a head of Philip IV he copied from Velasquez – made me laugh, Bruce and I marvelled all through the Prado at how exceptionally ugly the Spanish royal family used to be. But somehow, very young Picasso made the king sad, interesting, almost attractive.

Then he went to Paris and had his first exhibition there in 1901, when he was just 20 years old. And by 1903, it’s clear that he has become who he will always be, his style is recognizable and dazzling, at 22. In 1906, Gertrude Stein introduced him to Matisse. Imagine that meeting: Pablo, meet Henri. Then, in 1917, he and Braque invented Cubism.
We jumped right through many years to 1957, when he painted many of his own versions of Velasquez’s great Las Meninas; since we’d seen the canvas in Madrid, we had a lot of fun picking out the various figures and what happened to them at Picasso’s hands. At the end were some canvases of doves, done at his home in Cannes.
“These look a lot like Matisse,” I said to Bruce.
“Hmmm,” he replied. “Not enough red.” And he was right.
In the shop, some of Picasso’s wisdom on t-shirts: “Others talk. I work.”
And my favourite: “I’ve spent all my life learning to paint like a child.”
He learned all the rules, really well. So then he could break them, and he did, with the greatest relish, for the rest of his life.
Time for more wandering, and finally we chose an interesting little hole in the wall for a tapas dinner. And there – a cautionary tale. We’d been warned about thieves in Barcelona; a friend’s wallet was stolen here once, and a woman in a shop warned me to carry my shoulder bag not behind me but in front. Here, comfortable in a warm, funky restaurant, I put my bag on the floor under my chair. Bruce and I were drinking wine when a youngish, nice-looking man came in, seemingly with a group, sat alone at the table next to us, and then stood up next to our table, talking on his cell phone. I was aware that it was odd he was standing there to talk. And then I noticed something on the floor near his feet. And then I noticed that it was my bag.
He must have slid it out subtly with his foot, inching it across the floor as he talked and I talked. If I hadn’t noticed, I assume that in the next moments, he would have gracefully picked it up, slipped it under his jacket and disappeared. Instead, I reached way over and picked it up myself, and by the time I had, in my shock, put together what happened, he’d snapped his phone shut, said something cheery to our waitress and swiftly left.
I spent the rest of the meal hugging my bag. Ironically, there was almost no cash in it. But my credit card, bank card, all my Canadian ID, camera, hotel key, notebook etc.
Motto from 2009 – do not leave your handbag on the train. Motto from 2011 – do not leave your handbag on the floor. Motto for all future travelling: Do not leave your handbag anywhere. Stick it to your body. Phew.

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One response to “a close call”

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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