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Late Style and its DiscontentsEssays in art, literature, and music$
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Gordon McMullan and Sam Smiles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198704621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198704621.001.0001

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In the Antechamber of Death

In the Antechamber of Death

Picasso’s Later Paintings

(p.81) 5 In the Antechamber of Death
Late Style and its Discontents

Jeremy Lewison

Oxford University Press

This chapter contends that the examination of style is unhelpful in assessing what artists have in common in old age. Taking Picasso as an example, instead it focuses on what preoccupies and motivates them. Douglas Cooper, Picasso’s one-time champion, described Picasso’s late paintings as ‘incoherent scrawls executed by a frenetic old man in the antechamber of death’. Rather than see this as pejorative, the purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate how Picasso’s later paintings express the experience of being old, manifesting a strong sense of defiance in the face of geriatric deterioration, impending death, and competition from a younger generation and august forbears. By reference to psychoanalytical and psychological studies of ageing people, the chapter takes a humanistic view of Picasso’s late paintings and attempts to understand both their appearance and its content.

Keywords:   art history, old age, geriatric, late style, defiance, psychoanalysis

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