PICASSO'S MASKS by Andre Malraux
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Some twenty years ago Malraux wrote that putting paintings or sculptures in museums divested them of their original function (as portrait or image) and transformed them into sheer works of art; that confronting one work with another permits us to compare them, to perceive what they have in common, however different their style or intent; that the advent of photomechanical reproduction and fast transportation brings the arts of all times and places similarly within our purview, in a universal ""museum without walls,"" as he titled his first book on aesthetics. But from this hoard each artist draws that which speaks to him, his own museum without walls, and transforms its objects in creating his own. Here it is Picasso--repossessor of paintings, masks, fetishes--whose metamorphoses Malraux explores, in a book (published as La Teted'Obsidienne in France in 1974)that constitutes an extension of his autobiographical Anti-Memoirs. As there, he proceeds elliptically, circumambiently. He visits Picasso's widow at Mougins and ruminates on the massed paintings and sculptures, Picasso's own and those he collected; reverts to a conversation with the artist in his Paris studio in the winter of 1944-45, when Malraux put forth the idea of the Museum Without Walls; and concludes at the Fondation Maeght exhibition ""Malraux's 'Museum Without Walls' "" in 1973. Each is a ""privileged moment"" (as Roger Shattuck observed of Anti-Memoirs), a conjunction of event and introspection. And on each occasion he returns to Picasso's unending contest with his models, with himself: ""I paint against the canvases that are important to me, but I paint in accord with everything that's still missing from that Museum of yours."" (Adds Malraux: ""he alone was possessed by a passion for metamorphosing his own"" work.) One weakness of Malraux's aesthetics is that he does not extend our understanding of the historical work. Rather, he stakes a claim for it in the artistic present--which Picasso, by his example, confirms. What Malraux argued twenty years ago has been transformed, too, into platitude. His dialogues with Picasso and his attendant reflections restore the urgency and vitality of his message.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1976
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston