A New Picasso ANY one interested in contemporary painting should unques- tionably visit the Chrisim is exhibition—not that it has much more to do with Christmas than most of the Jubilee exhibitions
• had to do with the Jubilee—at the Zwemmer Gallery in Litchfield Street. A single exhibit there is enough to make the show important, namely a large etching by Picasso, his most -recent work, which it is said, has occupied him for the last six months, or at any rate has occupied such of his time as has not been devoted to the writing of poetry. Not every visitor to the gallery, not even every admirer of Picasso, will find this etching to his taste, but it is not often that we get an oppor- tunity of seeing Picasso's very latest work in London, and. as his style is still evidently developing rapidly, the event is of importance. Picasso has at last appeared as a full-blown Superrealist. In all his earlier styles, which have been approxi- mately given this epithet, that is to say roughly his work since 1926, there have always been considerable traces of his training in Cubism and abstraction. He has become gradually more literary, more allusive and more directly submissive to the subconscious, but there has always been in his work a clear element of distortion and rearrangement in the spirit of abstract painting. From the new etching it would be almost impossible to guess that Picasso had ever passed through Cubism. Every detail of the composition is now almost completely realistic, though the details are put together, according to the usual Superrealist methods, in such a way as to produce an effect 'anything but realistic. Bodies of different creatures cross and grow into each other ; limbs arc placed in fantastic rela- tions to their trunk ; and the whole composition is dominated by the vast bull's head, a recurrence of the favourite Minotaur theme. The result is, of course, nightmare, but the nightmare of a great artist, reflecting both the general instability of the time and, it is said, personal disturbance.
The exhibition also gives us an opportunity of seeing the latest phases of other artists, of less importance than Picasso, it is true, but still worth keeping up with. Marie Laurencin shows a canvas, Trois Tetes (39), painted this month, from which we conclude that, like so many artists, she is moving slowly towards greater realism. She has certainly abandoned the absolutely flat style with which till recently she was entirely associated. Dufy's two Gouaches, executed in October, show that he still produces his effects almost entirely by a sort of calligraphic skill. Personally, I still think that be succeeds best in the designing of stuffs, but his passion for painting seems to be incurable. De Pisis, who has some quite recent canvases on view, also relies on a single quality, sensibility, which has perhaps in the last few years been treated too much as if it were a necessary and sufficient con- dition for success in art. But sensibility by itself ranges over a small field, and De Pisis' paintings, though exquisite, are limited. Without the addition of some other more positive quality sensibility will merely keep a painter trampling about, without advancing, in the impasse to which Impres- sionism led, though it will also restrain him from forcing an escape by the scaffolding of Cubism or the tunnel of Superrealism. A Head (23), painted by Rouault in 1934, is the best I have seen of his later work.
The exhibition goes further back through a rather random but interesting selection of works. From the days of early Cubism there is an admirable Collage by Juan Gris (28), and the later phases of the movement arc represented by a typical sanguine drawing by Braque. Book-illustration shows to great advantage in Matisse's illustrations to Mallarrne, par- ticularly in the astonishing portrait of Baudelaire, and in Mantas plates for Gonin's edition of Ovid's Ars Amoris, published last year, a perfect combination of fine printing in the text and impeccable draughtsmanship in the litho- graphs. Finally there is a small landscape, Evening at Marty (3), by Sisley, a canvas recently discovered, it seems, in an English country-house where it had been lurking almost since the time it was painted, till it had reached such a pitch of dirt that the signature was almost the only thing visible.
It has long been worth while to search the bathrooms of English country-houses for Poussins and Sassettas, but the possibility of finding a Monet or a Cezanne, which is suggested by this incident, will add zest to the game.