Night Fishing At Antibes, 1939


Night Fishing At Antibes, 1939

Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish.  MOMA, NY


Antibes in the French Riviera.  A fishing scene under moonlight in the harbour, below the twin towers of the Chateau Grimaldi and the buildings of the town.


Two men are in a boat fishing.  One is spearing fish.  The other, upside down and sporting a to-die-for French mustachio, has a fishing line tied to his upraised foot.


On the right, two women are standing against a sea wall. The painting is under glass and so many of those looking at this painting or merely passing are reflected in it.


The woman on the left stands with her purple arms outstretched.  The woman next to her is holding an ice cream cone and a bicycle.


From the web 







Details photographed at MOMA, NY.  People visiting the gallery are reflected in these images



There can barely be a Picasso painting which has not been subjected to art-historical scrutiny, let alone one of this size and one bearing the apocalyptic date, 1939, from which recent history, good and bad, flows unceasingly.


The Spanish Republic had decisively been defeated when this painting was completed. The second World War was building.  There are studies seeking to show that this painting is a symbolic rendition of the extreme anguish of the times and of projected hope drawing from the deep history of the West.

All fine.   


But stopping for a moment the endless mind-stuff,  is this not gorgeous?


The whole picture plane is filled up – to appeal to that childish sense that all paintings should be filled up from the top to the bottom of the page with interesting and beautiful things –  with the enticing colours of land and water under moonlight.  There are fabulously tinged human beings here wearing the colours of all kinds of possibility. And a prosaic bicycle and an ice cream cone to relish also so that we do not feel unmoored in some dream world. 


This is no dream.


And then the town behind. 


Sitting on the fabulously named,  Cote d’Azur,  with a history dating at least to the 4th century BCE with a name – An-tibes – which drops like two diamonds out of your mouth into the warm night and the dark Mediterranean waters. 


The final ‘s’  vanished in your mouth in the fabulous mystery of the French language.


What more gorgeousness can one ask for to set off a daydream in front of a tableau so redolent of the beauty of a fortunate town in its spectacular natural environment?  And of the multifarious creative activities, poses and desires of Sapiens, impending war or no impending war? 

And of an artist rejoicing in his adopted land?