Monday, 17 October 2011

The artistic temperament

I used to live with an artist. Somehow I doubt he would say the same thing about me. Oh yeah, the time I lived with that creative woman. Nope, he would just say, the time I lived with that woman, I am sure of it.

The tricky thing about being a multi-tasked, forward-thinking, 360°-encompassing female is that your art is dissolved into your being, and your being is dissolved into the many people making demands, however quiet but always sustained, all around you.


It is hard hungry work, identifying the motherlode of creativity, reaching its rich fluid, then extruding the flow from compacted rock, layers of expression and experience, into fragments of crystalised energy with edgy facets.

And then you have to drive a teen to the station. Or remember whether you have to pick another one up. Or service the car. Or have the border trees trimmed. And that hole in the fence.

One way of looking at female artistic endeavour is to consider that its fruits are often doubly delicious. Attained a such a cost - that combat against selflessness and sacrifice - these endeavours may require a daunting leap, of course with strings attached.

I think of Fran├žoise Gilot, mistress of that brilliant minotaur Picasso who, an artist herself, dared to critique their life and his god-like mannerisms. Anyone who read her 1964 book 'Life with Picasso' may know that one of the most creative minds of last century shunned his ex-lover and their children when the book was published. Never spoke to his teenage children again. His son Claude who climbed over the artist's fence, never to be admitted to his home.

The earnings from Gilot's book gave her the economic resources to fight for her children to claim the Picasso name and inheritance. She married again, twice, painted throughout her luminous life, lives in New York.

Her pensive, stylised face looks out from Picasso's seductive portraits.

26 comments:

  1. I know those strings quite well. Sometimes they feel bolted down.

    I've never read Gilot's memoir. Perhaps I'll give it a peek.

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  2. Yes MSB, those strings can hold you fast. Maybe we all need a touch of Gilot sometimes. ciao cat

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  3. Ah yes, Picasso, for all his genius, was horribly cruel to those kids. And others.

    Re. the balalncing act - I think it is why many women artists do not become mothers. The balance is too tricky. I have 3 kids and wouldn't change it for anything but it does make life insanely busy while trying to write too.

    A lovely post, Cat.

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  4. Thanks Nuala, I enjoyed your interview on Novel Spaces - I could feel a touch of that frenzy. It's so tricky at times, mostly in fact. ciao cat

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  5. Wonder if he felt the need to throw his paintings out and build a fence to stop them coming back in....pensive indeed - glad she got free..

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  6. And to think that the young man climbing over his father's fence is now said to be a 'walking inventory' of the great man's work. This just killed me.

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  7. It's hard living with anyone of an artistic temperament, I'd say. Sigh!

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  8. Ps Talli - thanks for joining up I've just noticed. I do love all the energy in your blog ciao cat

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  9. I always say that women don't rule the world because they are too busy running it.

    I can't imagine what a life with Picasso would have been like, torture.

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  10. What's that thing they say about male vs. female writers? Especially back in the primo days of 20th century literature, they're all men. Why? Because they had wives to do "everything else."

    Having said that, I have a husband who earns the whole living and does housework and encourages my artistic endeavors. He lives with a woman who is constantly distracted, constantly writing in my head and often not "present" to hear anything he says. I feel for him.

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  11. Hey Ladies,
    Welcome to you both! Lovely to see you commenting here as I enjoy both your blogs enormously. All I did was push one button, being the woman behind the woo-man.
    Grazie! cat

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  12. I saw a Picasso for the first time at Bellagio here in Vegas. Portrait of Dora Maar. I'll never forget the experience, the power of the image. The next day I went to the library and checked out every book I could lay my hands on about Picasso, and found myself both swept away by his work and sorely disappointed in his character. The man was insufferable.

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  13. I read a feature interview with Gilot awhile back. She was a tough strong woman who fought for her children and then went on to have a successful life AFTER Picasso.

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  14. Hi Averil, There is a Bellagio in Vegas ? amazing! Yes his works are miraculous, so magnetic and seemingly pulled off with such ease. I haven't seen the Dora Maar portrait but would love to.

    Yes Downith as they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

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  15. I can no longer remember the poor writer who had to go into the cellar and write by the furnace to get away from his children. I am not impressed. Try writing within the realm of those children and I may feel some admiration. I bet his wife didn't have the option of escaping to the basement.

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  16. There are times when I'm glad I'm married to an engineer! Gilot sounds like a strong woman ... but then women creators need to be don't they?

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  17. My Dad is an engineer and thankfully I've inherited a lot of practical traits. He's also one of the most avid readers I know and more generous with his time and knowledge than many blokes I've stumbled across. A return to Old School? Or a girl who still worships her Dad?

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  18. Only you can answer that! (Sorry about the delayed reply ... as I understand it OpenId users can't get email notifications of comments on blogger blogs.

    BTW Neither of our kids have inherited much of their dad's practical traits ... they'v both gone more down their mother's humanities path. I'm sensible but only so-so practical!

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  19. I love this post. I'm trying to sort out my intentions and it's a cluttered mess. My mind, I mean.

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  20. Dear WG,
    I've had to haul out my low grade engineer's daughter's genes on many occasions (putting on snow chains in a T-shirt while my sons look on, drilling holes, though nothing too mechanical). I still love a greasy rag and the smell of fuel!

    Hi Lisa,
    Your mind is probably cluttered by all the people trying to devour your attention. How well I understand this!

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  21. Love this post, Catherine. I knew Picasso treated women badly but I didn't know this one wrote a book. I have to read it! Picasso's work is so brilliant; I had a print of Blue Nude on my bedroom wall for years. I wonder if she posed for that? The lines are mesmerising.

    Far too many artists are/were not admirable human beings. We just have to learn to separate them from their work.

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  22. Yes the book is memorable, they even made a film with Natascha McElhone (Surviving Picasso) and I remember the moment when she defies the great artist and tells him she is going to leave.

    And yet Picasso's work is so powerful and complete, it's easy to see how he was so mesmerising.

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  23. Brilliant. Really enjoying your words.

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  24. Thanks Di! Had a look at your lovely site too. Thanks for dropping by and hope you can return to Genova soon. Ciao ciao cat

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