O, Lion

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In the year 1900, Pablo Picasso moved to Paris. He was around twenty and already the wonderboy of Barcelona.

Picasso quickly gathered a group of friends, an international circle of artists and writers whose daring and talent changed Western Art forever. Guillaume Apollinaire, poet and sometime pornographer, coined the term “Cubism” and died, regretful for dying young, of the Spanish Flu on Armistice Day, 1918. Max Jacob, who liked to fly high on Ether, pioneered absurdist poetry. Artists like Soutine, Matisse, Braque, and Modigliani were all part of the scene. Expatriot American writer Gertrude Stein facilitated the success of modern art with her salons.

“O, Lion” is a line from one of Guillaume Apollinaire’s poems: Oh, lion, unhappy image of sadly fallen kings … These artists saw the fall of the old empires and were part of the new, modern spirit of rebellion. They were serious about art and reckless with it, producing for their time and place and for eternity. They believed in the importance of their moment and in each other. In order to sing my tribute to them, I had to make myself into an old barber, finding an old razor blade with Picasso’s blood on it. That old barber was young in 1902. He kept that old blade for the rest of his life.

Pablo Picasso and Max Jacob, early twentieth century. Photo from Tumblr.

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