You'll love this one...!! A book club & more discussion

Group Themed Reads: Discussions > Our October Read: "Life With Picasso"

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message 1: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments Join in the discussion for our October selection for the theme "Legends": Life with Picasso by Francoise Gilot. I will be leading our discussion. Feel free to share your thoughts on what you thought of the book. Note that this thread will contain spoilers...

message 2: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I will admit that I have but barely begun this book due to being sidetracked with a re-read of my favorite, To Kill A Mockingbird as a birthday gift to myself. But I will make good progress this weekend and be back to chat away - I am intrigued to learn about the man behind the art...

message 3: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Oooo to kill a mockingbird!! Easy to be distracted with that one. I need to attempt to keep this or from the library so I can join in with the chat a I am quite enjoying it :)

message 4: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I made my way through the first section in a very small window of reading opportunities this week. I am torn between disgust in Picasso the dirty old man and delight in his fantastical imagination displayed when he gives Francoise the tour of his engraving sketches - explaining very flippantly the mood/tone/desire behind each of the "characters" portrayed. I always looked at his art with complete confusion - but getting a personalized tour makes them seem a lot more fun, alive and interesting. I think much of what he did were caricatures and commentary, using the features of faces/bodies from people that "haunted him." It is more insightful than I expected.

message 5: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyh) | 37 comments I do agree, Molly. It is very hard to find anything likeable in Picasso. I find it astonishing that he had many friends at all.
The insight into Picasso's paintings given by the book is really helpful, but I find the man entirely repellant.
At the moment I am just about to start section 4. I shall not spoil the intervening sections for you. They give a really good insight into Picasso and his relationship with his friends.
Although I think I will have had more than enough information about Picasso by the time I finish this book, I find myself intrigued by Francoise herself. I have added some of her books to my to-read list.

message 6: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments A few thoughts as I have made my way through Part 2...

I know little of Picasso and his art - other than that it never made much sense to me. So I really do enjoy the explanations behind why he created what he did and how. It makes me appreciate them and I am glad for all of the photos my edition of the book carries. The part in the book where he sends her a gaudy bouquet of flowers while she is recovering from her accident in the hospital was an excellent commentary on what I see as his statement through his art - "I think the prettiest bouquet in the world would have been less effective than that absurd assemblage of colors. I understood very well why he had sent it. One bouquet more or less, what difference did that make? But this monstrous thing was something one could never forget."

As for the personal side of the story, I find it commendable that she had the ability to portray the beginning of her relationship with Pablo as sweet and flirtatious and exciting without allowing the infiltration of darker feelings that grew later. That must have been difficult - to look back with an honest eye at a time that seemed very different than what it evolved into. It would have been natural to tell the tale with bitterness or anger but by letting us see how she really experienced him in the beginning, it makes it more understandable how she fell into step with him.

In Part 2 she shares many horrible moments - foreshadowing for herself I assume when he and Dora part ways. He was a very manipulative man. From an art perspective he he tried to manipulate common objects into irrational displays to force displeasure and attention, wanting to make people think deeply about a concept. From a human perspective he played people off of each other for his benefit to twist their thoughts into what he needed them to feel. And generally manipulative people are selfish. Such as when he told her that "You're ready to leave me. I don't have many more years to live, you know. And you don't have the right to take away whatever little bit of happiness remains for me."

But as nasty as Pablo could act when he wasn't getting his way, she is not so much an innocent victim here. She knowingly and willingly entered into a relationship with this man and helped him to cheat on his longtime girlfriend. She didn't seem to feel guilty about any of this until she saw the torment it caused Dora. And even then, I don't think she felt so badly for Dora in as much as she became troubled by what the future might someday be for herself. That said, she never hides these facts - she puts it all out there. She could have painted herself in a better light so I respect her honesty of self representation. In fact, one thing that I find very interesting is that she never quotes her own words - only those of others. Her role in the conversations are told without quotes - in very matter of fact summaries of her thoughts. It takes a lot of the emotion away from her words and puts the focus entirely on the other party - namely, Pablo.

Bottom line, the book - thus far for me at least - is not so much about Pablo, though she puts the focus there, as it is insight into her, which I thankfully find to be well told and relatable. We have all been young and foolish, been dreamers looking for support and made bad choices that were met with discouragement. I personally haven't experienced physical abuse from a "loved one" or been involved with an older man but I have found myself caught in a relationship that was detrimental to my self worth and wondered how that happened. I think she reveals how that can happen very well. And I look forward to reading further about her journey - even though I know it will get far worse before it gets better.

message 7: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyh) | 37 comments Thanks for putting this all so clearly. I find it difficult to put my feelings about this book into words.

message 8: by Chrissie (last edited Oct 09, 2010 11:03AM) (new)

Chrissie Molly, I haven't read the book yet. I haven't even bougth it yet, but now i know I want to! Thank you. Like I need to buy another book like a hole in my head..... but I am addicted to good books!

message 9: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyh) | 37 comments Have you tried getting in through a library rather than buying?

message 10: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie Mandy, Belgium doesn't gave good English libraries!

message 11: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyh) | 37 comments So sorry to hear that, Chrissie. I suppose I have been spoiled by having access to good library facilities................ Oops!

message 12: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I forgot to come back when I finished this last weekend. I don't really have much to add to what I already mentioned above. I did find it interesting to go read about their life after this book though. Some conflicting reports - one that she was never successful in having her children's name officially attached to Picasso and another that she was successful. So I'm not sure which is accurate. As this book clearly shows, there are always two sides to every story - it is all about perspective - for art and humanity.

One thing is certain, she is a resourceful lady who continues to find her way on her own terms.

message 13: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I've just finished part one and like you say Molly, I'm finding it difficult to see beyond the dirty old man. It is fascinating to read about the logic behind what he painted. Saying that I am finding it hard to get into, think I'll just have too keep going in small sections :D

message 14: by Jo (new)

Jo (Jo_Wales) | 62 comments Have just bought the book and am about to start it. Not sure if I want to go to sleep at night with a dirty old man in my dreams but I'll give it a go :-)

message 15: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyh) | 37 comments You will find it quite a compelling read, Jo. I know I am, although I find myself reading it at a far slower pace than normal. At the moment I am reading section six.
Although Picasso comes across as rather a monster, it is the description of the different artists, like Matisse which interest me. It is extraordinary that Picasso had many friends at all, when you consider the way he is supposed to have treated them.

message 16: by Mandy (new)

Mandy (mandyh) | 37 comments Well, finished this book this morning. I gave it three stars when I reviewed it.
I am glad to have ead this book, but am left feeling that I need to learn more about the characters within the pages. This is very much Francoise's view of Picasso. I feel the need to find out if this view was held by others.

message 17: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments I did take the tale with a grain of salt - though she told it with a detached tone, it was still very personal. So of course it is biased. Then again, it wasn't meant to be a biography - but rather her memoir about a point in time that she lived with a very famous artist. A tell-all in a way. But much more in depth and not tacky. I agree, I would enjoy reading other angles to the man - as well as learning more about his contemporaries.

message 18: by Jo (new)

Jo (Jo_Wales) | 62 comments Really enjoying this book.I've always been fascinated with Picasso's art. I didn't think it would be my cup of tea but I'm finding the references to different artists/novelists and Robert Capa photographer (I have one of his books!) fascinating.

message 19: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments There were times when I felt like she was name dropping but I suppose it is hard not to when you live with Picasso ;o)

message 20: by Jo (new)

Jo (Jo_Wales) | 62 comments Yes, I agree Molly. She talks about them as if they were your average neighbours just dropping in. We build them up to be icons but in their real world, perhaps they were just your average (albeit to us eccentric/genious) types!

message 21: by Jo (new)

Jo (Jo_Wales) | 62 comments Still enjoying this book and, although a lover of art, especially the Pre-Raphaelite movement. I’ve never really looked into modern art movements too closely. The references to Cubism are fascinating and Pablo’s part in it. I think I understand it a bit more now. Liked the description of his La Femme-Fleur, portrait of Francoise Gilot although I had to read it a few times and study the picture! Rather than a ‘dirty old man’, he just comes over as extremely spoilt – too much adoration, perhaps?

message 22: by Molly (new)

Molly | 270 comments He was quite petulant. But when it came to his artistic vision and innovations, he was quite admirable. And that's how he drew people in to spoil and entertain him.

The descriptions of the resulting artwork made things so much clearer for me - to see where he was going, and where he hoped to lead others by them.

I was most in awe of his sculptures. The way that he converted junk was wicked cool! She delves into that near the end of the book.

message 23: by Carly (new)

Carly Svamvour (faganlady) | 121 comments I have it on my 2k12 list. Don't know if I'll get to it that fast though.

Sounds good.

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