19 August 2015

Why You Have To Ride A Bicycle To Truly Understand Picasso, Rodin Or Any Impressionist Painter

You all have seen this Picasso sculpture.

Question:  What kind of handlebars are they?  Velo Orange Belleville?  (OK, so VO didn't exist in Picasso's time.)  Whatever they were, they definitely weren't flat bars.  In fact, I can't think of any way even Picasso (or, for that matter, Rodin or Michelangelo) could have made an objet d'art from flat bars.  For that reason alone, they should be illegal. 

(Don't get me started on those mountain bike bar ends that were all the rage circa 1992-1996!  Yes, I had a pair of Onzas--in purple, no less!)

I posted that image because I figured that I should, since I visited the Picasso Museum--my favorite, after the Rodin--today.  However, I didn't actually see the "bull".  The part of the museum in which it is displayed was closed off because a special show is being organized.  Oh well.

At least there's all sorts of other interesting stuff to see there.

Now that's something to think about the next time you're kissing your beloved!

It goes without saying that Picasso, like many great male artists, had complicated relationships with women:

To be fair, he also had a strong social conscience.  You've probably seen Guernica.  A decade and a half later, he painted "Massacre in Korea":

And he understood, I think, how thin the line is between sensitivity and derangement can be.  At least I gather something like that from his painting Absinthe Drinker:

That one isn't in the Picasso Museum. I saw it yesterday in the Musee d'Orsay.  There's so much there and so much has already been said about many things that are there that I'll just choose a few vague (wave) paintings:

Paul Gaugin (another favorite of mine): Marine avec Vache

Georges Lacombe:  La Vague Violette


August Strindberg (You didn't know he was a painter, did you?) :  Marine avec recif
Alexander Harrison (Philadelphia 1853-Paris 1930):  Marine 

I find it very interesting that the Impressionists and Rodin came along around the time the bicycle was taking a form we recognize today, which vastly increased its popularity over that of "high-wheelers" and other predecessors.  For the first time, many people had access to a mode of travel that is faster than walking.  Because we pass by people, landmarks and other parts of the landscape more quickly on a bicycle than on foot, we see them clearly but momentarily, so they form impressions in our consciousness.  That, I believe, is why we can so readily call upon sense memories of what we saw, heard, felt, smelled or tasted during a bike ride.

On the other hand, when Picasso was helping to invent Cubism, the automobile was in its juvescence.  So was cinema.  When we see things from the window of a fast-moving car or other motorized vehicle, we see "cuts" in much the same way we see a series of images on a strip of motion picture film.  Each image in the series differs slightly from the one before it, but the cumulative effect is that what's at the end of the strip is very different from what we saw at the beginning.

I'm sorry if this all sounds like half-baked cognitive psychology mixed with even-less-baked art and film theory.  I'm just doing the best I can to describe what occurred to me as I was riding between museums, and after visits to museums.  If nothing else, it made clearer--to me, anyway--why the trip to the museum, especially if it's on a bicycle, can be just as important and even interesting as the museum itself.

Just for fun, I'll end this post with something from that great interpreter of fin-de-siècle Paris nightlife, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec:



  1. Biking is my passion as well as its a fun for me that's why i ride bikes.

  2. Nelson--There isn't a better reason to ride bikes.

    Thanks for stopping by!