In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

At the National GalleryPeter Campbell
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Vol. 31 No. 6 · 26 March 2009
At the National Gallery

Picasso’s Borrowings

Peter Campbell

‘I have a feeling,’ Picasso said as he got older, ‘that Delacroix, Giotto, Tintoretto, El Greco and the rest, as well as all the modern painters, the good and the bad, the abstract and the non-abstract, are all standing behind me watching me at work.’ He also said that while he had a horror of copying himself he was happy to copy others: ‘Shown a portfolio of old drawings, for instance, I have no qualms about taking anything I want from them.’ The pictures in the exhibition at the National Gallery (until 7 June), Picasso: Challenging the Past, make points about his use of other people’s art, but he did that so regularly that they also give an overview of his whole life’s work.

The dialogue with those imagined onlookers took various forms. There are, early on, pictures that say: ‘I can do one of those too.’ For example, the 1901 portrait of Gustave Coquiot with a frieze of dancers in the background is painted and composed in a manner not too far from that of Toulouse-Lautrec. Then there are pictures that tell things of their own in borrowed, or part-borrowed voices. El Greco was on Picasso’s mind when he was painting the sad Blue Period pictures; Puvis de Chavannes was a source for the solemnity of Combing the Hair (1906). The heavy classical figures of the 1920s can be compared with any number of ancient sources (Pompeian frescoes, say) and his early Cubist nudes take something from those of Cézanne. These borrowings, if his career had stopped there, might be called ‘influences’.

But other relationships are without the implied subservience that goes with that word. There are pictures that take as a template a traditional form – still life, portraiture – and subject them to extreme graphic transformations. The given elements – fruit, a guitar, a face, a skull – are faceted, twisted, hatched or distorted, sometimes almost beyond recognition. Without the title you would be hard pressed to relate any detail of Still Life with Glass and Lemon to an object. Only after you have decided that there is a central stand or table and objects on it can the game of interpretation begin. Old art is a substrate, but in this case the viewer borrows an idea to look with rather than the painter an idea to build on.

There are pictures, like the one of a blonde nude in a red armchair, that extract the psychological essentials of the work of other painters but little of its appearance. In the case of the blonde in her armchair Picasso generalises, enlarges and radically reassembles the essential elements of the female nude, a strand in Western art that had reached a high point of erotic intensity in Ingres’s harem bathers; Picasso pushes it even further by creating an image in which the parts are so lavish, so tumbled together, that the picture is more relevant to memories of what it is to touch a body than of what it is to look at one. Some pictures, like this one, enlarge on, even grossly inflate, the spirit of the art they draw on. Ingres’s erotic dreams emerge supercharged in the Sleeping Nude with Blonde Hair. Picasso’s Flayed Sheep’s Head is no less intensely about dead flesh than is Goya’s Still Life with Sheep’s Head, whereas Chardin’s Kitchen Table with Slab of Mutton – printed in the catalogue on the same spread as the other two – shows meat as food that will be enjoyed, its presence re-created in brush marks of red, pink and pale cream that even a vegetarian might take pleasure in.

Picasso’s journey away from the impasse the pursuit of appearances in painting had reached in the 19th century took him back, past medieval Catalan painting, Oceanic masks and African sculpture, towards other kinds of image – drawings by children and the insane, for example – that are not so much approximations of the outward appearance of things as likenesses of what is felt, known, loved, feared or imagined about them. In making these excursions he took what he needed from the art he met on the way.

The versions of specific paintings done in the 1950s (he was by then over 70) are different: they rough up, exaggerate, distort, inflate and deface the original elements of Velázquez, Delacroix or Manet – Las Meninas, Women of Algiers or Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. These paintings, drawings and prints take some of their force from his own inventions, but some too from the violence they do to pictures well established in the viewer’s mind. He strips Delacroix’s Algerian women of their clothes, turning a domestic scene into a brothel or an Orientalist harem. Eventually he also strips off Manet’s male picnickers, so that what was once shocking – clothed men sitting with a naked woman – is put safely back into the classical past. It is the distorted blobs and curves of breasts and buttocks and the huge spade-like hands and feet that are now a challenge.

Why paint a version of what has been done before? Performers stage old pieces in modern dress and arrange old music for modern instruments to give them new life, but that is more like what Delacroix did when he copied Rubens, Rubens when he copied Caravaggio, or Matisse when he copied Chardin, than what Picasso does with Velázquez. His late dialogues with past art are strong, aggressive, sometimes amusing and argumentative. It was the right decision to have only his own paintings in the exhibition. Reproductions were what he had by him when he made them, and set beside the things they are derived from his pictures would shout them down without giving enlightenment in return. There are small photographs however, and plenty of comparative illustrations in the catalogue. They are all you need to remind you of his starting points.

Now Picasso has become a master others engage with. His abundance, the intensity of his engagement with old art and the power of his responses were not directed to a single end. Once Vasari-like notions of progress lose their cogency, each painter becomes his own school, and his best hope of recognition lies in being both distinct and different. Imagine an artist’s mind as an empty room with many doors. One is opened and what is found there is brought out and used. Picasso opened door after door, dragged item after item into his mental space and then made something new of it, sometimes transforming it, as he did when he made a bull’s head from a bicycle’s handlebars and saddle, sometimes taking it apart with clownish glee, sometimes making images that enter the imagination as strongly and lastingly as the masterpieces of Manet and Velázquez he transmogrified.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.