Was she dreaming of him? Picasso's “Le Rêve”

Monday, March 5, 2012

Last week a bunch of us gathered in an impromptu painting studio at an underground garage and had a go at painting one of Picasso's abstract works called "The Dream" (“Le Rêve” ). 
Picasso La Reve ,1932
We were not alone. We had the help of two academically trained painters and some nice bottles of Spanish Tempranillo wine. (Spanish wine in honour of a Spanish painter).  

It is a painting of a woman, sleeping peacefully as she reclines on a armchair and while I was trying my best to copy the brush strokes of the master, I could not help but wonder who was that voluptuous, blonde. Was she his lover? Her semi-naked body implied that and her tilted head, with that slightly hedonistic smile surely could not have suggested otherwise.  

I went home and looked it up. The woman immortalised in this and many other paintings was Picasso's teenage "erotic muse",  Marie-Therese Walter whom he met on a Paris street around 1927 when he was 45 and married. He painted many pictures of her and had a child with her and four years after his death she committed suicide.

"La Reve" as well as many other paintings belong to his period of distorted depictions of reality with oversimplified outlines, eye catching colours, and covert sexual innuendoes.  But this painting became famous not only because of the erect phallic symbol carefully hidden in the upturned face of Marie-Therese, but because it would have yielded the highest price on record  for any piece of art, a whooping $139 million, hadn't his owner, the Las Vegas casino mogul Stephen A. Wynn, accidentally slammed his elbow through the canvas. Fortunately the painting was repaired but the sale never took place. 

I hope the extensive research and time I spent learning about the painting, the model and the creator himself, will count towards some much needed atonement after my attempt to copy this masterpiece.