In June 1932, a retrospective of Picasso’s work was presented at the Georges Petit gallery, in Paris. It was the first real encounter between Picasso and the French press and public. Numerous articles were published about it, and the interview of the artist by Tériade hit the headlines of the newspaper L’Intransigeant.
In his introduction, Tériade wrote, “Here, we find the expression of some of his ideas, which are not only those of a painter, but also those of a man”, thus highlighting the dual artistic and human dimension of the way in which Picasso would continue to be seen.
The existence of this article underscores Picasso’s whole-hearted involvement in the promotion of this exhibition: he greeted journalists while the exhibition was being installed and posed for photographers, but had disappeared by the time of the opening. By his absence, he aroused curiosity and fuelled the fantasies of his fans and detractors, showing his rejection of conventions, his contempt for tributes, his freedom and his affinity with popular pastimes. He gave short shrift to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle journalist who asked him about the event that marked the opening of his major retrospective: “Me, I go to the movies”.
Based on a press review of the 1932 exhibition, the aim of this presentation is to show how the Picassian myth was created. Within that press review, the artist is seen in a way that often goes beyond that of the aesthetic qualities of his work. Indeed, references to his personality are plentiful; he was variously described as cosmopolitan and prolific; as an acrobat, a chameleon, a plagiarist, a phoney and a conjurer; as powerful and intelligent; as a magician and a born painter; as universal and irreducible. He was also said to be a man of “profound humanity”, a characteristic that would form the cornerstone of his popularity.