Still Life with Minotaur and Palette
Paris, November 27, 1938
Oil on canvas
73 x 92 cm
Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Madrid. On temporary loan to the Museo Picasso Málaga
Coinciding in time with the political tensions that led to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Picasso appropriated Greek myth to expose the latent violence in human nature. His Minotaur celebrates shared pleasure, commits acts of sexual violence, repents, shows unexpected tenderness. Picasso’s quasi-abstract images of women’s heads evoke both aggression and desire.
‘Picasso was speaking very quietly now. “A minotaur can’t be loved for himself”, he said. “At least he doesn’t think he can. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to him, somehow. Perhaps that’s why he goes in for orgies.” He turned to another print, a minotaur watching over a sleeping woman. “He’s studying her, trying to read her thoughts”, he said, “trying to decide whether she loves him because he’s a monster.”’
[Picasso in conversation with Françoise Gilot, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris, February, 1944, quoted in Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, Review Books, 2019, p. 42]
What was happening in 1938?
- After painting Guernica, Picasso embraces the figure of the Minotaur as a symbol of violence in times of war.
- The bloody Battle of the Ebro is fought during the Spanish Civil War.
- Nazi Germany annexes Austria in the 'Anschluss' [Union].
- In the United States, Orson Welles’s 'The War of the Worlds' radio broadcast causes a nationwide panic.