The Daily Post today is curious about readers’ attitude to help. They ask, “When you’re unwell, do you allow others to take care of you, or do you prefer to soldier on alone?”

I am lucky. I have two amazing sons, who offer me tea when I come home perfectly healthy, but tired. When I am ill, my wife, the lady who helps us cook & clean, my sons, and even my parents (parental consulting over the phone) rush to help. When I am ill, I feel so good I don’t want to get better. Isn’t it a textbook case of domestic happiness?

As you see, there’s not much to discuss about me, but there is a work of art that is rang by the bell of “help” whenever the word appears in the context of being ill.

When Picasso was sixteen, he must have believed artists should provide positive examples to the uneducated masses and immoral aristocrats to change life for the better. Picasso was  an anglophile, was considering London as his dream destination (but went to Paris instead), and used this work of an English painter as inspiration:

The Doctor. Luke Fildes

Picasso copied the idea into his Science and Charity, with his dad posing for the doctor:

Picasso. Science and Charity

One of the critics mocked it, saying the doctor wouldn’t have to take the pulse of a glove were the artist capable of drawing hands properly. That review must have killed Picasso’s interest in providing moral help and guidance by his paintings. Being a rancorous guy, Picasso would remember the critic’s name for decades. Let’s admit the obvious, the hand of the ill woman does look like a glove. The problem with realistic paintings is that once there’s a tiny element you don’t trust, the whole work gets discredited.

Yet, Picasso managed to really help a lot of people in a very unusual way.

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

In 1938 Picasso’s Guernica was exhibited at Whitechapel gallery in London. The entrance fee was a pair of boots. The exhibition was visited by 15 000 people, and all the “entrance tickets” were sent as aid to Spanish republicans.

P.S. When Picasso was first exhibited in London in 1908, he was doused dripping wet with cold ridicule and humiliating sneers. It washed out the last strands of the anglophilic virus he caught as a teenager. When it comes to coldness, raised brows and poker faces, the English have always been champions, right?


  1. Its humbling to read about Picasso’s insecurites. We seem to forget he had them considering how iconic he became due to his own doing as well as art history in general.
    As far as his “Guernica” work and Picasso’s intentions with it, I found the entrance fee fascinating. I just remembered how in 2003, a tapestry of Guernica hanging at the United Nations was covered over with a curtain when Colin Powell was to be interviewed by the press near the image. Officials didnt find it appropriate to listen to Powell’s reasons for going to war after 9/11 with the image of “Guernica” screaming behind him. I wonder what Picasso would have done or said about that.
    Interesting post as usual.

    1. You just had me pinned down, imagining Guernica being draped over because of its “inappropriateness”… Thank you for this story – I didn’t know about the fact. I need time to “process” it properly.

        1. Noooo, the new words are great! )

          P.S. I hope that you’ll like the new post on Holbein. There’s an idea there that I have not published anywhere yet.

  2. Interesting point about discrediting realistic art when there is an out of place element– now all I can see when I look at the painting is a glove hand!
    Also, very interesting fact about the boots entry fee. I did not know that.
    Thanks for sharing!

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