Why I am not a painter . . .

although I have always wished I could be. In a place like Antibes you can’t help but notice the clarity of the light, the jewel-bright hues (not like the washed drab of London). You want to grab a brush rather than a pen; there are not enough words for ‘blue’ in the English language to do justice to sea and sky, it is so easy to drift into cliché. This is a landscape for painters, remade by Matisse and Miró and, of course, Picasso.

Perhaps painters don’t see the difference between brush and pen in the same way? Picasso was interested in the representation of things: ‘I want to SAY nude. I don’t want to do a nude like a nude. I just want to SAY breast, SAY foot, SAY hand and belly.’ His nudes are about the complexities of women as well as their appearance, his intellectual and emotional relationships with women.

‘Painting is just another way of keeping a diary,’ Picasso said. He came to Antibes in the summer of 1946 with Françoise Gilot and their young son, Claude, and was offered a studio in the Château Grimaldi (now the Musée Picasso). He immediately immersed himself in his work. Gilot recalled that he ‘spoke especially of the white light which brings out shapes rather than colours.’ But the colours are striking — as if the artist has emerged from darkness (the darkness of the war) giddy with the richness of everything around him. Even in still life (much more dramatic in French, nature morte; the emphasis on ‘death’ rather than ‘life’) his fish and flowers are buzzing with energy; the vivid spikes of les oursins. When asked what attracted him about sea urchins (which are everywhere still, on market stalls, outside restaurants) he replied ‘the eyes like being surprised.’

Perhaps it’s easier to capture happiness in paint than in print? Our host, Lynne Rees (aka ‘The Hungry Writer’) takes us to her favourite picture in the museum, Joie De Vivre, and poses that very question. And the painting is joyous, a celebration by the seaside. We know Picasso was happy in the months he lived in Antibes: the war was over, he was in love with Françoise and his little son, he was productive, he had a studio in a castle overlooking the sea.

Sometimes words aren’t enough for all that. And if we are unable to paint it, then perhaps it’s enough just to live it (and allow the eyes to be surprised) and store it in our memory for later …