I’ve just been proof-reading ‘Getting a kick out of Picasso’ – Yes, I know you’re supposed to do it before you publish something, not a month and a half after (I never have the time …) When I remembered that it was on the eve of a half term holiday, that the students were given their ‘slices’ of the ‘Three Dancers’ (carefully planned and cut to make it as difficult as possible to figure out what it was) and from which they were to make their own scaled up versions; accurate, in terms of proportion, colour, texture of paint. I’d already set them homework, and there were a couple of minutes left till the end of the lesson.
As a bit of a ‘throwaway’ remark, I said
‘I bet no-one can come back after half term and tell me exactly what these are …. If anyone can, I’ll give you ten merits (worth about £35 in today’s money on the school’s black market – and an unheard of amount to win at one go) Remember, they knew nothing about the project whatsoever yet. Picasso’s name hadn’t been mentioned, nor the ‘C’ word (‘Cubism’) They hadn’t even had time to figure out that they actually joined together.
‘The only clue I will give you is the word Pimlico’
Well, bugger me, if only halfway through the week after the holiday, and before his Art lesson which was on a Friday I am sought out by one of the class members; a delightful lad by the name of Robert Fone. (Real name, don’t think he’ll mind)
Story was that at a loose end over the half term, he turned to the ‘optional homework throwaway thingy’ (Nowadays, of course, it would be called an ‘Extension Task’) It didn’t take long for Robert to work out by consulting some of his friends that some (all?) of the pieces joined together. He visited his local library (Again, this was before the age of high-speed Broadband Internet access to this, that and the other) Eventually, Rob came across an image which seemed to connect with colours and shapes on his section, as well as those of his mates. What was it? Who was it by? – Time to enlist the help of Dad – a postman.
‘Dad what’s at Pimlico that might have something to do with Art?’
‘That what? … that might have something to do with Art? … Well I dunno, son. Let me finish this and we’ll have a look in the ‘A to Z”
Which they did; and sure enough, finally spotted the Tate.
‘That’s got to be it!’ So they set off bright and early the next morning – which they needn’t have bothered doing since the Tate doesn’t open till 10am – armed only with Rob’s sliver of the picture and the suspicion that it involved Picasso.
In a wonderful dénouement, after some time, they found what they thought to be the painting and sat in front of it as Rob took out his slice and his notes from the library. Both of them, tired with ‘gallery legs’ looked for corroboration in the cobalt/cerulean blues, contorted and distorted shapes before them. And sure enough, there it was. Fitting indeed that the ‘moment of realisation’ happened in the gallery in front of the work.
‘Sir! I know what it is! … I’ve got it!’
Well, I’m going to keep my distance if you don’t mind Rob, cause whatever it is you’ve got I don’t want to catch it’
‘No, no, no I mean …. (Actually this all for comic effect. Rob, bless him, was very quietly spoken and unassuming) So it was almost apologetically that he told me the cut-up picture was called ‘The Three Dancers’ painted in 1925 by Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881 – 1973), measuring 215.3 x 142.2 cm and that it hangs it the Tate Gallery near Pimlico.
‘The largest and most important piece by the artist in the Tate, it fully justifies the epithet ‘masterpiece’ and as such, lays a claim to being the greatest work in the collection; which owing to its fragile condition, it is unlikely to ever leave’ said Richard Calvocoressi.
Ahhh, yes. If only you knew, Richard. If only you knew, mate …
And my pocket was lighter to the tune of 10 merits.
His Head of Year saw me:
‘Ah, Mr. Daly, Is it true you gave Robert ….’
© Andy Daly 2010