Picasso in Paris

Nineteen-year-old Pablo Picasso had his first exhibition of paintings on this day in 1901, in Paris. Although some noted evidence of haste--anxious to seize the opportunity of the one-man show, Picasso had sometimes produced three paintings a day--or that the work was too derivative of Toulouse-Lautrec and others, one reviewer saw a "brilliant virility," a painter who "is in love with every subject and to [whom] everything is a subject." All in all, says John Richardson (A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy, 1881-1906), the exhibition was "a stunning bravura performance," and "in a modest way, a financial success."

Picasso continued to commute back to Spain, but he settled permanently in Paris in 1904, at the fabled bohemian studio-apartments in Montmartre known as Bateau-Lavoir. Over the next three or four years there, he would become connected to many of the major painters, patrons, and personalities of the avant-garde scene, developing through the "Rose" and "Blue" periods to arrive, in 1907, at Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, the revolutionary 8' x 8' masterpiece with which Richardson concludes the first volume of his biography:

…it enabled people to perceive things with new eyes, new minds, new awareness. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is the first unequivocally twentieth-century masterpiece, a principal detonator of the modern movement, the cornerstone of twentieth-century art.

Picasso would move out of Bateau-Lavoir the following year. The masterpiece of his bohemian lifestyle there would be the party which he, Apollinaire, and others threw for Henri Rousseau. Whether described as a tribute to or a joke played upon the elderly Rousseau--self-taught, his Naive-Primitive style was not to everyone’s taste--the dusk-to-dawn event is a highlight in the memoirs of Gertrude Stein and many others, and in the history books it is raised to iconic status as "the celebration of a whole epoch…one of the landmarks of the pre-World War I era" (Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years).


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.