There was a series on the National Geographic channel called “Genius: Picasso”. It’s an account of Picasso’s life, told from ‘present day’ in the 1940’s and 1950’s as he’s an old man, showing reflections of his younger life as the memories mirror things we are seeing in the ‘present day’. It’s actually quite fascinating.
I find that I am constantly appauled when this show. I can’t explain it any other way. I am just appauled. Appauled at the women, the drugs, the death… Appauled by the daughter painted in the nude and the girlfriend locked in a room. Appauled by the girlfriend given electroshock treatment.
I am reminded of my own life experiences. When Picasso begs Francoise to stop painting and come join him in a community celebration. But when she does join him, he leaves her in the courtyard as he joins the parade across town. I’ve been there. Almost to the very detail.
I guess that’s when it hit me why this series is so difficult to watch, but yet so compelling. It describes a person I know all too well.
What is so interesting to me is that Picasso probably doesn’t even realize his own passive-aggressive abuse. I don’t think it’s intentional that he is suppressing Francoise’ time to paint by distracting her with raising children or pulling her out to celebrations. I don’t even think, at least as it’s portrayed in this show, that he realizes he has isolated her from her friends and family. In so many ways he has put her in a box where she feels trapped and unable to leave.
I think this is relevant to me because so often we portray an abuser as this horrible monster who inflicts his abuses, whether verbal, psychological or physical, as intentional. We never really stop to think about the abusers upbringing, programming, and perception of normal.
It’s also interesting to see how she has allowed it. A seemingly strong personality, has gotten sucked into this unhealthy relationship. Not just Francoise, but so many women in Picasso’s life have given up their own dreams to get sucked into this world that revolves solely around Picasso. It’s a beautiful portrayal of the interdependence cycle of an abusive relationship. The strong woman is a façade. Somewhere inside she is crying out to have purpose and a place to belong. Too often, that purpose and place gets assigned to a spouse and her own life goes out the window.