Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 11, 2010

Picasso, Degas, and Swimming

My niece Rachel just visited before leaving Brooklyn for Berkeley to start grad school. We saw “Picasso Looks at Degas” at the Clark Art Institute

Pablo Picasso famously, or mythically, said: Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

But like many who speak memorable lines, did he mean it? The bravado and decisiveness of stealing appeals, but I thought the back and forth of borrowing held more truth as I looked at the paintings and sculptures of the two artists, who at once point lived in the same Paris neighborhood but probably never met, were put side by side. In notes along the way, we read about homage, echoes, exaggeration, and reflections and saw women ironing or bathing in similar poses, but with different qualities to the lines. I enjoyed Degas paintings I’ve never seen: an early portrait of an old women in amazing tones of brown, umber, and gold; a predominantly red painting making a woman brushing a girl’s hair have almost the energy of a bull fight.

There was one roomful of ballerinas, and an examination of how Picasso’s first marriage affected his subject matter, and another of brothels and bars. The rest of the wonderful show was pretty much devoted to women with bath tubs or an occasional book.

Then on the way home, with the temperature hovering close to three digits, we stopped at Savoy Mountain State Forest, where the water was clear and cool. My husband took this picture of Rachel and me on a rock. You can click on the image a few times to see it closer, or just trust me, we were smiling.



  1. What a great photo! I would be smiling too if I were witness to that beautiful scenery.

    The Picasso/Degas exhibit sounds really interesting. Degas has a birthday coming up on the 19th :). *twirls away in imaginary tutu*

  2. Three digits? Heavens! I’m amazed you’re smiling and not melting.

    Wonderful painting… one that would make a good companion to Cassatt’s “Mother Combing her Child’s Hair” (though neither has quite the fire that such hair brushing provokes around here).

  3. Oooh, just a few days after Bastille Day you get to twirl! My niece loves Picasso, but my husband and I are more Degas people, and his range here was particularly stunning. Perfect way to stay out of the heat.

  4. I think it’s been record breaking heat. Or if not, it should be.

    The reproduction really doesn’t do justice the intent reds, or the energy of Degas’s lines. I think he did feel how that can be pleasurable — or not at all.

  5. Okay, NEXT time you go, you need to see the Greene & Greene craftsman house in Pasadena. (I think you may have to call ahead for times, or even to schedule, but totally worth it.) And did you eat at the Cold Springs tavern on the stage coach route? You’re going around all my old stomping grounds, and I love thinking about you and Emily there. 🙂

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