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Gedo, M.M. (1983). The Archaeology of a Painting: A Visit to the City of the Dead Beneath Picasso's “La Vie”. Psychoanal. Inq., 3(3):371-430.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 3(3):371-430

The Archaeology of a Painting: A Visit to the City of the Dead Beneath Picasso's “La Vie”

Mary Mathews Gedo, Ph.D.

The picture buried beneath Picasso's “La Vie” affords a relation to the apparent painting. Personal motivations led to the repainting of the painting which we now recognize as “La Vie.”

Among its many delights, the great Pablo Picasso retrospective of 1980 provided the opportunity to reexamine familiar works by the master in new and provocative combinations. The chance to view La Vie surrounded by related drawings and canvases renewed my interest in this enigmatic picture and its history.

Despite its status as the key picture of the Blue Period, as well as the earliest of Picasso's major autobiographical statements, La Vie has not often been explored in depth. Critics typically allude briefly to its obscure symbolism and personalized references, then hurry on to some less troublesome picture. Only Theodore Reff has seriously addressed himself to the painting's origins and iconography in his sensitive essay, “Themes of Love and Death in Picasso's Early Work.” But Reff published his conclusions before the Cleveland Museum of art undertook its revealing radiographic study of the canvas Art in 1976.

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