“It must be true to say that we write to understand our lives,” he shouted at the crying woman, “but they don’t listen. They never listen.” Screaming in frustration the man paced the room like a caged lion.
She didn’t answer him, just stared at his agitated figure with accusing eyes looking both at the door and the man. He did not flinch from her stare, stars filling her eyes as they melted into tears. His anger was not quenched or slackened by her outpouring. She bit into the tissue whose angular and sharp edges both hid her mouth and accentuated it. The woman lamented silently as the man raged, loudly exclaiming his situation.
“What do I do? I write to feel yet no one takes any notice.” He stopped in front of the woman and waited as if for an answer. She was silent, always watching but never voicing an opinion. He studied her as he stood, fists clenched and mouth set in an angry line. She accepted his gaze without comment, tears spilling from her eyes.
“Gertrud said that my writings were ‘the egotism of a painter’.” He sighed and looked at the ground. “She says that my writing with colours is everything and my writing with words nothing.” Running a hand down the crying woman’s face he felt the ridges and bumps that he had so carefully moulded, “but I write to make sense.”
Smiling ruefully he picked up a palette, suddenly exhausted by the whole argument. Mixing cobalt with azure he applied the finishing touches to the flower on the top of the woman’s hat.
“Do you portray my thoughts any better than a poem?” He asked the painting and then carries on, not waiting for a response, “does that?”
Pablo turned his back on the weeping woman and looked at the painting extending along one wall; eleven foot by twenty-five the image is huge and contains not one colour. The grey and blacks merge to create a montage of suffering.
Addressing the painting Pablo carried on, “mum said that the fires from Guernica made her cry.” He casts a critical eye over the painting, created only days after the bombing. He knew that the violent and twisted images would be controversial, but needed to say what he felt; the monstrosity of the bombing and a growing hatred of Hitler.
“Why can’t they see it in my writing? Why just in my painting?” he asked no one, jumping at the sound of an answer.
“Because they don’t see.”
Pablo flinched and turned, “Dora,” a shadow of a smile graces his face, “my original weeping woman.”
Her own face was haunted by amusement for a moment and then was gone. Brushing back her dark hair she indicates the smaller painting with one camera encrusted hand, “is she ready?”
Pablo looked at the last painting of the weeping woman he would do, his echo of Guernica, and nodded, “yes.”
Dora turned a critical eye on the image with its contrasting colours and tears. It didn’t look much like her but then Pablo had always seen her like this, ‘a suffering machine’. She didn’t understand quite what he meant but by putting the painting in the same room as the panorama you could feel the anguish; after all the mothers and wives of those lost would never stop grieving and neither would the painting.
As Picasso leant toward the painting to sign it he said, “it’s a study of just how much pain can be seen ,” he paused, “communicated in a human face.”
Dora watched him and as he left she followed, as she walked past her skirts caused a draft and papers rustled in her passing. One perched precariously on a table escaped and fluttered down to glide to a halt between the two masterpieces. Neither noticed and the door closed with a click. The paper did not move but the words written, shrieked:
Screaming children, screaming women, screaming birds, screaming flowers, screaming trees and stones, screaming bricks, furniture, beds, chairs, curtains, saucepans, cats, paper, screaming intermingling smells, screaming smoke hitting you on your back, screams stewing in a cauldron and screams of birds falling like rain on the sea and inundating it.
This poem is by Picasso (from “Picasso” 1993 Taschen page 67).