Thursday, June 12, 2008

Water colour

Did any Picassos go down with the Titanic when it sank in 1912? - the year Jackson Pollock was born, incidentally. Apparently not, but that didn’t stop Titanic director James Cameron. Soon after Rose (Kate Winslett ) gets on board she unpacks her art works secured in Paris: a couple of “Picassos” and a “Monet” from a suspiciously contemporary-looking fitted crate. They are not the only art featured in the movie. The drawings by Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) were in fact made by the director James Cameron and it is his hand you see when Jack is drawing Rose maja-like on a couch. Maybe Rose’s two Picasso-like products are Cameron’s work too.

One is a version of Picasso’s 1907 Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Sure the composition has been changed and the figures compressed, but it reads like the original well enough at 24 frames per second. The other ‘Picasso’ is more obscurely based on the 1910 Portrait of the dealer Ambroise Vollard, who presumably ‘sold’ Rose both paintings (in fact the original portrait was sold to the Russian collector Shchukin the year the Titanic sank and was probably not in the market for Rose to ‘purchase’). As for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, it was first exhibited at Art Moderne en France at Salon d’Antin in Paris four years after the sinking and it was at this exhibition Andre Salmon gave it its title.

As a footnote, many years later the director of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, William Rubin, claimed he would “kill myself” if the plane taking Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to the Musee Picasso in Paris were to crash and sink like the…er…Titanic.
Images: Top to bottom, Rose checks out ‘Les Demoiselles d'Avignon’, puts the portrait of Vollard on the couch and prepares to strip for Jack’s portrait, James Cameron’s hands in their cameo role.