Vital Signs

The Case for Anonymous Art

For all of living memory, they have been making this wilderness and calling it art. If you were there in Paris, as I was, for the public sale of the Picasso legacy belonging to the artist's mistress and model Dora Maar, you would know whereof I speak.

The masterpiece of this collection, Weeping Woman, probably the most repulsive work in portraiture up to its time (though successfully emulated since), inspired an hysteria of greed. Both the painting and its sale must rank as highwater marks in the incarnation of the hideous, the ongoing search for an ideal ugliness to characterize our time.

In this painting, Picasso has outdone himself, insulting his subject, the art of portraiture, all the artistic ideals of the West, and life itself And it is not well painted. Which is to say one would be hard put to imagine paint laid to canvas in some less painterly way. That he made myriads of such paragons of anti-craftsmanship can only imply that (beyond his contempt for his patrons) Picasso loathed himself.

There is a term for this state of soul, taedium vitae, for which our word "tedium" would seem too neutral. What it really means is that one abominates life. Many must have this affliction, since paintings radiant with the beauty of the artist and the model, pieces that prove Picasso could really paint if he wanted to, went for little money.

At the same time as the Paris sale,...

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