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Pablo Journal 
The Louvre Test 
1998, Year 1
No. 3, Aug 20
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After World War II, Picasso was asked to donate some works to French museums. As a compensation, he was granted a confrontation of some of his paintings to works of his colleagues in the Louvre, on a day closed to the public. Only very few persons were present. In a kind of ceremony, his works were hung side by side with other works of his choice. Rarely did someone speak. Afterwards, Picasso is to have said: "C'est la même chose!", i.e. it's the same thing: He and the other masters were doing the same, despite of different styles and attitudes. (As I recall the biographical notes of Françoise Gilot, then related with Picasso.) To me, this confrontation of works of different masters was a very interesting experience I would like to share with you. Hence this enterprise is dedicated to Pablo Picasso. 

This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar, I am just a painter and art lover only. As lover I will approach one of the works of art the heritage of all mankind has left us, one by one, week after week, as long as I can. I will keep my investigation personal and simple, meant to open your eyes to see for yourself. Words can be used as a means to that end, but it is rather the space between the words that does the work. A great master of the art of appreciation of art, Kurt Rossacher of Vienna, demanded to see with nose first, eyes, tongue, heart, and only at last with the brain. 

Your appreciation will give me the power and strength to endure. It is for you and all the great masters that I do this work, and I hope you will enjoy it. So don't hesitate to send me your feedback in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net, so please tell me if the size is ok (images are great, but big!). 

As I am writing in a foreign language, I am not sure to express myself correctly, but I hope you will be able to guess what I mean any time. 

Also, I invite you to join in my effort. Send me your articles and comments to be published in this journal. 

Yours truly,

Beckmann (1884-1950)
Grünewald (1470/75-1528)
Beckmann, Argonauts, middle plate


Grünewald, Isenheim Altar, right plate


Location Size Date Scan
Private Collection, New York
204*122 cm 80x48"
Mark Harden


Location Date Scan
Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar
Mark Harden


Beckmann finished the triptych the day before he died. One of the figures appeared in a dream. It was the 9th triptych, the tenth was sketched already. 

This is the middle plate, depicting an ancient scene, the other plates featuring modern figures. The name of the triptych refers to a greek saga, the two young men can be identified with its heroes. The old man is Beckmann's invention, corresponding to C.G. Jung's wise old man. 

F.W. Fischer published a lot about Beckmann, proving that he read about Gnosis, Theosophy and the like. The scene has a strong impact and resembles in some way Beckmann's "Young men at the sea", 1905, his first successful painting, rewarded by a Florence scholarship. 

There are a number of hidden christian symbols, but the tenor is rather heathen. The plate does relate to last questions obviously, the mood is slightly optimistic. In this respect it resembles the middle plate of his first triptych "Departure", Museum of Modern Art, New York.

This is the right plate, the middle plate being the crucifixion. I was tempted to pair the middle plate with the "Descent from the cross" of Beckmann, which would prove the correspondence very clearly. 

But then again this pairing seemed to be trivial. The resurrection is a bold contrast to the crucifixion. The contrast to Beckmann's Argonauts is equally great, and it shows very well that the impact of an image is not bound to technical questions. 

Grunewald's realism could have been paired equally well with Dix's social realism of the 20ies, Dix having made triptychs, too. But the realistic attitude is not important here. The crucifixion is not so realistic either. It is a means just as well as the aura or the fading of the head, becoming all yellow and faint. 

He probably wanted to show some kind of light effect emanating from the head, which is hard to achieve, if not impossible, with a painting, the view being reflected by the surface only. The message of the painting is delivered very well nevertheless. This christ never became as famous as Leonardo's self portrait, for example, being widely taken as a model for God's face. I wonder why.

Last week
Three Graces
Bather Arranging her Hair


Next week
Argonauts, Tenth Triptych
572-4, First Triptych


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