Pablo Picasso is in the AAD news again, with the sale of one of his paintings entitled “ Le Reve’’ , which was bought for by hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for $155 million from casino mogul Steve Wynn . The $155 million price-tag for ‘’ le Reve’’ makes it the most expensive painting by Picasso.
Today, Picasso art-works seem to have transcended time as his works continue to be some of the most sought after pieces in the world by both collectors and investors. A little known fact until recently, was where Picasso garnered some of his inspiration. It may come as a surprise, but Picasso was most certainly influenced by Zimbabwe’s shona stone sculptures.
Shona sculptures are a unique ancient abstract art-form that dates back to Zimbabwe’s 10 century civilization, an art-form that is still practiced today. One just has to look at Picasso’s art-works to notice the striking similarities. A not unreasonable question that many might ask is, how was Picasso influenced by Shona sculptures. Well, Zimbabwe’s first director of the National Art Gallery and a gentleman who played a major role in bringing Shona Sculptures to the international audience, was a Mr Frank McEwen. He was a close friend of Pablo Picasso, and they worked together in the UK and France.
Frank McEwen was an art historian who had studied at the Sorbonne and the Institul d’Art et d’Archaeologie in France. While in France McEwen became close friends with other notable artists such as Constantin Brancusi, George Braque, Henri Matisse and Fernand Leger. McEwen arranged events at the V & A between 1945 to 1947 for French art. The Picasso show incited hundreds of letters of protest to The Times, which brought the painter great merriment when translated.
After a brief stint working for the British council in France, Frank McEwen journeyed to Zimbabwe in 1954, where he was employed as the first director of the National Art Gallery of Zimbabwe. It was through the encouragement and recommendation from Pablo Picasso that Frank McEwen landed the appointment. The gallery was inaugurated by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in July of 1957.
While Frank McEwen was in Zimbabwe, he would occasionally send Picasso photos of shona art as well as sculptures. To understand the influence that Picasso garnered from Zimbabwe, one has to see and compare art-works created by him such as Les Demoiselles d’Avigon , bust of a woman , nude with raised arms, three women, and mother and child, which, ironically, remains one of our most famous artistic themes, and is still a cause for creation by Zimbabwean shona artists today.
According to the African Diaspora Tourism, in an interview with Time magazine Picasso stated about shona art, ’’everything I need to know about Africa is in these objects’’.
Please take time to compare the similarities of Picasso works and shona sculptures. Your thoughts would be much appreciated.