John Mcewen com­ments on Two Women Run­ning on the Beach

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting Nicole Farhi -

PI­CASSO’S artis­tic life may have been bo­hemian, but his back­ground was solidly bour­geois: his pa­ter­nal un­cles in­cluded a diplo­mat, a prelate and a doc­tor. as he ap­proached mid­dle age, he had the urge to marry and set­tle down. There was also fam­ily pres­sure, es­pe­cially from his mother. Two girl­friends re­jected his pro­posal in quick suc­ces­sion and it was on the re­bound that he mar­ried olga Khokhlova, a prima bal­le­rina in Di­aghilev’s Bal­lets Russes com­pany.

olga wasn’t bo­hemian in at­ti­tude; she in­sisted on a Rus­sian ortho­dox wed­ding, which took place in 1918. in­jury ended her danc­ing ca­reer and their only child, Paulo, was born in 1921. Pi­casso’s re­turn to con­ven­tional fig­u­ra­tive art was an apt re­flec­tion of set­tled do­mes­tic­ity sup­ported by suc­cess, which now gave him a celebrity beyond the art world.

in the sum­mer of 1922, the fam­ily, plus nanny, rented a villa at Di­nard, on the coast of Brit­tany. Per­haps irked by this gen­teel prospect and frus­trated by mar­i­tal re­stric­tions, Pi­casso gave vent to his pre­vi­ous free-liv­ing, rule-break­ing self with this wild cel­e­bra­tion of two hefty mae­nads—fe­male fol­low­ers of Diony­sus, Greek god of wine and ec­stasy—rush­ing be­side the sea.

Six years later, on an­other fam­ily hol­i­day at Di­nard, he would se­cretly bring along his teenage mis­tress, Marie-therese Wal­ter. This lit­tle pic­ture an­tic­i­pates that ec­static time, which also proved an artis­tic re­lease and the be­gin­ning of the end of life with olga, although they re­mained mar­ried un­til her death in 1955.

Di­aghilev used an en­larged ver­sion of the de­sign as a back­cloth for the bal­let Le Train Bleu.

Two Women Run­ning on the Beach, 1922, by Pablo Pi­casso (1881– 1973), 13½in by 16¾in, Musée Pi­casso, Paris

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