Antony Penrose: The boy who bit Picasso

Antony Penrose, The Boy Who Bit Picasso

Published 2010 by Thames & Hudson, 48p

My name is Tony. When I was a little boy, living on a farm in Sussex in England, I had the most extraordinary friend. He had deep black eyes, a big wide smile, and absolutely amazing hands. His hands were absolutely amazing because he could make paintings and drawings and sculptures and collages and pots and plates and much much more.

Antony Penrose begins his story, The Boy Who Bit Picasso.

friendship
Illustration Source: Thames&Hudson

The boy in the story is the author himself and the extraordinary friend is Pablo Picasso. The son of Lee Miller, photographer, and Roland Penrose, surrealist painter and writer, Tony had the chance to grow up in a house where artists like Joan Miró, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso used to gather. The relation of the young boy with the Spanish artist was a success from the very beginning. Picasso loved children and animals. He even demonstrated a childish behavior from time to time so when the boy, out of excitement, bit Picasso’s arm one day, the artist bit back without hesitation, saying in French: “Gosh! That’s the first Englishman I’ve ever bitten!”

The book is a visual delight. Filled with Picasso’s drawings and paintings and with photographs taken by Tony’s mother, The Boy Who Bit Picasso is a fascinating memoir that introduces readers to Picasso’s unusual and unlimited artistic universe.

I couldn’t speak French or Spanish, but it didn’t matter at all because we didn’t need a language for our games. Picasso was great fun to play with. He liked to romp around on the floor and have pretend bullfights. His tweed jacket was nice and scratchy. He smelled good, too. He smelled of cologne and French tobacco.

artwork
Illustration Source: Thames&Hudson

A few years later Tony and his family went to visit Picasso at his house in the south of France. The boy remembers the artist’s studio, the mess of the place on one hand and the variety of the mediums Picasso used for his art on the other hand – objects from around the house, strange musical instruments, masks, magazines and even bits of junk. As the artist loved the company of animals, at the time of Tony’s visit he used to have a goat, Esmeralda, that slept just outside his bedroom.

studio.jpg
Illustration Source: Thames&Hudson

Picasso kept his playfulness and creativeness all along his life. He liked experimenting and inventing so when he died at the age of 91 “ he left behind him nearly 2,000 paintings, more than 7,000 drawings, well over 1,000 sculptures and much much more”.

Complement The Boy Who Bit Picasso with Catherine Ingram’s This is Dali, an engaging biography on Dali’s eccentricities both in art and his personal life.

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