John Mcewen com­ments on Science and Charity

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting Clare Marx -

JOhn Richard­son, Pi­casso’s bi­og­ra­pher, has dis­missed the child­prodigy leg­ends, the most fa­mous of which de­tails Pi­casso’s fa­ther—an art teacher who spe­cialised in pi­geon pic­tures—hand­ing over his brushes to the boy Pi­casso say­ing he would never paint again, hav­ing seen him dra­mat­i­cally im­prove one of his pic­tures.

Pi­casso was cer­tainly gifted enough for his fa­ther to place all his worldly hopes in his artis­tic suc­cess, but it was achieved through en­ergy, am­bi­tion and hard work as much as nat­u­ral tal­ent. The boy was also ma­ture beyond his years; when he en­tered art school in Barcelona, hav­ing just turned 15, he took Rosita del Oro, six years his se­nior and star of an eques­trian cir­cus, for his first mistress.

Pi­casso’s fa­ther, Jose, was a man of leisure without the means, who didn’t marry un­til he was 42 and con­tin­ued to de­pend on the gen­eros­ity and con­tacts of his in­dus­tri­ous broth­ers, es­pe­cially sal­vador, a pi­ous and much-re­spected doc­tor. art-teach­ing posts took the fam­ily from sleepy south­ern Málaga, via Corunna, to bustling Barcelona, cap­i­tal of Cat­alo­nia and the in­dus­trial north, where they ar­rived in 1895.

Pi­casso loved Barcelona and con­sid­ered it his ‘birth­place’. To please his fa­ther, who found him a stu­dio and gave him a large stretched can­vas as a house-warm­ing present, he painted Science and Charity. The sub­ject hon­oured de­vout un­cle sal­vador, al­though the model was his fa­ther and he couldn’t bring him­self to paint the cus­tom­ary cru­ci­fix over the bed. his fa­ther gave the pic­ture its grand ti­tle and en­tered it for a na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion in Madrid, where it was of­fi­cially com­mended, and in Málaga, where it won a gold medal.

Science and Charity, 1897, by Pi­casso (1881–1973), 78in by 98in, Museu Pi­casso, Barcelona, Spain

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