meeting picasso
(excerpt from The Diaries of Otto Dix)
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Otto Dix was a German painter who
flourished during the twenties, the years
of the Weimar Republic prior to the
seizure of power by the Nazis. The Diaries
is a novel loosely based, very loosely, on
his life. There were at this time two kinds
of art, the art preferred by Adolph Hitler
and all the other art. Dix fell into the
second category--with a vengeance--and  
when the Nazis took over many heads
were to fall, his among the first.  The  
excerpt below occurs before any of this,
at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden
where he had a teaching job.



Yesterday a meeting. The subject was: visiting
artists. They have a problem getting people to
speak.

I made a suggestion: have they thought about
paying  these people?

Tony says he is going to invite Picasso. This
gets our attention.  It also draws a laff. It is
well known Picasso doesnt do this. He doesnt
travel and when he does his destination is
usually the south of France.

Tony says: I know Kanweiler--his dealer.

So--this means what?

He says: I will get Picasso.



I am painting the triptych. Its coming along. I
have the cartoon sketched out and the
composition is gradually beginning to refine
itself. I am using Madeline for a model.

Yesterday I had a visitor--Mother Ey. She has
been on the road--looking for painters.  She is
the same. The energy is undiminished. She has
been to italy and France--and the United
States. She was in New York, Chicago, a city
called St Louis and San Francisco.

What was New York like?

Incredible.  It was incredible, stupendous,
unbelievable. It was fabulous. She also liked
Chicago. She met a man named Al Capone--a
gangster. They have a law called
Prohibition--no more drinking.

I say: no more drinking?

Thats right.

I dont understand.

Neither do the americans. It doesnt seem to be
working.  The only thing it has accomplished is
to create a new breed of gangster--the
"bootleggers"

What means this word?

A bootlegger is someone who sells whisky
privately.

Where does the whiskey come from?

They make it themselves or smuggle it from
Canada.

What about the police?

The police are not a problem.

But why are they called bootleggers?

There you have me.

Al Capone is the King of the Bootleggers.He is
28 and makes 5 million a year.  He has 9
houses and 14 cars. He lists his occupation as
sardine importer.

Al Capone told Mother Ey he is interested in
painting and promised to visit the gallery if he
ever comes to Germany.

 
What about the painters?

There are some good painters--but they are
not in our league.

She fills me in on the news.

Any suicides?

Only one--Maurer.  He was 40.  Why?  The
usual: apathy towards his work.

I ask about business. Business is terrible. No
one is buying. She cant even sell cornball
work. The mood is changing. Its becoming
more conservative. It is getting harder and
harder to sell decent work--not that it was
ever easy. She is getting hammered, etc.

I have been painting for 20 years and in 20
years I have never heard a dealer once say
business was good. It gives them the excuse to
beat you down.

Felixmuller is the same--painting and living off
his wifes income.

Well--they are happy so why not?

And what about me--what am I painting these
days?

I show her the triptych.

She says: its fabulous!

Can she sell it?

Maybe the middle panel.

I explain: its a triptych.  Triptych means three.

She explains: Otto we/ve had this conversation
before--no  more war cripples being urinated
upon by dogs.

But its a triptych!


Later I took her to the train station.

I said: you were a big hit.

I liked your students. The redhead has talent.

The redhead is Madeline.

Yes.  Are you fucking her?

No. Its against the rules.



Picasso is here.

Tony did it. How?

He said: its called being a nag.

There is one stipulation: no speeches.  He will
spend a couple days meeting students and
looking at work.

So there we were--gathered around out front
awaiting his arrival.

I am excited.  I have always admired this
man. There are two reasons.  I love the way
he draws. Also--he lives the life of a child. He
is free. He does what he wants and that only.

He says: I think I will eat--and he eats.

He says: I think I will sleep--and he sleeps.

He says: I think I will paint--and he paints.

He says: I think I will fuck--and he fucks.

Etc, etc. This is easier when you have money.

Normally I have mixed feelings about meeting
people whose work I admire.  The
disappointment factor is high. Most artists are
dismal birds. People make them nervous. They
communicate best when alone.  This is why
they became artists. Maybe this man is
different.  We will see.


He arrives.

Up rolls this huge car--a Suiza-Hispano.  This is
a beautiful machine. It is  sculpture.  The
fenders are like giant flour scoops. It has 16
cylinders. That means 8 cylinders can fail and
you will still arrive at your destination on time.
Its in the cabriolet style with the driver outside
and behind him a roofed-in passengers
compartment.

Picasso is sitting up front with the chauffeur.
Inside are 2 women.  A young girl and an older
woman.

Tony scoots up to greet him. The rest of us
follow. There are hellos and introductions
made. The two women are his girlfriend and
her mother.

This is classic. I just had Mother Ey for a visit
to lecture them of the grinding poverty  
awaiting them as painters and now Picasso
arrives in his chauffeur driven Suiza-Hispano
with his 17 year old girlfriend.

I know about the girlfriend from Tony. Picasso
was out for a walk. Here was this young girl
looking into the window of a dept store. There
was something about her face.  And the body
wasnt so bad either. But it was the face.

He went up and said: my dear--I would like to
paint you.  I am Picasso.

There was no response.  The name drew a
blank. She was a convent girl.

She said: I am Marie-Therese.

And she never has figured it out. She knew him
a year and a friend asked how she and Pablo
were getting along and she said: he seems to
spend an awful lot of time painting.

Picasso is short. He is built like an ape. He has
black hair. The eyes are black. They are oily,
expressive. He has large ears. The lips are fat.
The neck is thick. My first impression is this:
intelligent, stubborn, obsessive, ironic.

He has charisma--energy. It leaks off in  
waves--like heat from a furnace. There is a
famous quip from his mother: If Pablo were a
priest he would be Pope. If he went into the
army he would be a general.If he was a doctor
he would cure cancer. Instead he chose painting
and became Picasso.

We go inside for lunch. The conversation is in
French.

Picasso says: normally I dont do this.  I hate
traveling. I have no curiosity about the world.
Ive been told this is a major flaw--particularly
for an artist.  My answer is that I could spend
the rest of my life painting the things I see
within 3 blocks of my house every day. But
Tony was persuasive. He said all the right
things: good food, a free room and unlimited
adulation.

We laugh. The food part is certainly true.  
Nobody has ever lost weight attending this
school.

We eat and chat. Picasso does the talking. This
is a man ill-suited to handle a supporting role.

He says:  fame has its good and bad side.  
When I was young I was already well known
among painters. They came to see me from all
over Europe.  They were interested in the
work. Now its quite different.  I have become
too famous. I am treated as an exotic beast.  
People come not to see the work but to gawk.
They want some sort of performance. I could
take my dick out and piss on them and they
would love it.

We eat and show him around. We visit the
library, the painting and sculpture studios, the
pottery studio, the cinema. We visit the  
tennis courts, the soccer field, the volley ball
area and the  pool where a few students are
stretched out taking a break from their labors.

P is laughing.

To me he says: Dix--do you realize what a
set-up you have here?

Picasso continued.

He visited my class.  This was hilarious.
Imagine being an art student and have Picasso
stand there watching you draw.

They were working from the model.

He makes the circuit and does it again. This
time he corrects some work. He takes charcoal
and works in a few strokes.  It doesnt take
long.  He briefly studies the model and then:
wham, wham, wham! The strokes are fat,
juicy, wormy. They twitch and wobble and flip
and flop. They bite into the paper. They exist.

But he doesnt like. He smears and smudges
and wipes off and re-draws.

I am studying his hands.  They are the hands
of a farmer. They are battered with work. The
fingers are heavy and stubbed at the end--like
cigar butts. A woman who was an expert in this
field--of analyzing hand physiognomy--was
given an unidentified photograph of Picassos
hand.

She said: this is a man who can go through
walls.

He continues to attack the drawing. He draws
and redraws. He smears and smudges and
wipes off and draws and redraws.  Its starting
to happen. Where there was an anemic,
babbling, unsightly mess he has created a
space and established within this space a
turbulence--of energy, rythym, gesture,
weight. There is value--the darks and lights.

He pops some flesh into the nose, he thumbs
out a mouth, he scratches forth an eye. Its
something any good art teacher can do.  But
this is Picasso. When its Picasso it adds a little
fizz.

While drawing he speaks.

I love charcoal. You must learn to draw.  This
is done by drawing. You must draw, draw,
draw.  You must have a notebook with you at
all times. On the bus, eating dinner,
performing a bowel movement. I am serious.
For me the nose is the key.  The nose and
mouth.  Get these right and the eyes will
follow. Draw an interesting head. All heads
have a skull inside.  This is called anatomy.
Remember this. The hair is a shape. Get the
shape right.  You can provide details later.
Dont forget the negative space.  Do something
with this space.

Etc, etc.

The same things I have been hammering them
with: Draw what you see! Loosen up! Make
mistakes! Simplify! Attack!


Picasso is still here.  He must like this place.  
He came for 2 days and has been 5.

Yesterday we played volley ball. It was P and
Madeline vs myself and Maria Therese. He
likes Madeline. He likes tall women. He comes
up to her nose. They make a good team.  They
would both spike their grandmother. Also--he
cheats.  He made several poor calls on shots
that were clear winners. He was jumping
around out there like a monkey. He was
dressed for this in a green wool bathing suit
the size of a jockstrap with his balls hanging
out.

After we took a swim. He is stretched out on
the grass with his balls hanging out of the
green wool bathing suit and his head in
Madelines lap.

This Marie Therese creature is a sweet thing.
They make a good match.  1) She is young
pussy. 2) She doesnt nag. 3) She is the
mothering type. He needs this. He is labor
intensive.

He waves his hand. He says:  Dix--you must
draw this!


In the studio.

Picasso is here. He is leaving today. He asked
to see my work.

I show him the triptych.

He is enthusiastic.   He says: Dix--its fabulous!
I love the palette here. These pinks are too
succulent. The values are amazing. How did
you do this?

He studies the whore--and the fur wrap
painted like a giant pussy.

He laughs. He says: you are a twisted human
being.

I show him a few portraits and drawings. I
make coffee. We chat about this and that.  We
agree that art dealers are scum.

He says: my life is a nightmare. You cannot
imagine. I have no peace. I am like one of
those water buffalos in the  nature films
crawling with flies. I have all these people in
my life. They all want something. I have
dealers, publishers, journalists,  servants,
tailors, wives, girlfriends, landscape
contractors, real estate agents, wallpaper
consultants, etc. It is a miracle I continue to
paint.  I havent mentioned my wife.  She is
mad. Shes a Russian. Why did I marry this
woman?  She was a dancer. I got invited to
these fancy parties.  I met all these upper class
types. It was a new experience for me.  I was
a poor Spanish painter. It went to my head--or
dick.  Now I am stuck with this lunatic.  She
wont divorce me.  Why should she?  She lives
a like a queen.  I do the work--she spends the
money. I said to her one day: why dont you
just get a needle and stick it in my arm and
draw the blood directly? Thank god for Marie
Therese. This girl saved my life.  She truly
loves me.  The money means nothing.  Later
this will change. Its all work, Dix. This is what I
have learned. You must work, work, work.  
Women are not the answer.  They want
different things.

He stands. We embrace.

He says: Dix--
mon vieux.  What can I tell you.
Its been fabulous. I had fun. Remember that
concept? I love your work. I am going to tell
Kanweiler about you. You must visit me in
Paris. You can stay with me.  

And then he was off to collect Marie Therese
and the mother--out shopping--and into the
Suiza-Hispano and he was gone.