Picasso’s Art was for the people, Jim Murphy & Angela Merkel

Scottish Labour Party Leader Jim Murphy

On hearing Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O, 1954-55) sold in a rather dramatic auction for a record £115m, I immediately thought of one my favourite places, Saint-Paul-de-Vence. It’s one of the most delightful medieval villages in the South of France. It’s picturesque and its stunning natural light, as well as the quality of life has attracted many famous artists and writers. (If you’re in Nice, it’s an enjoyable and scenic 45 minute bus ride away and its charm still remains pretty much unchanged since the Middle Ages).


We were introduced to it by my sister and her family- who lived in nearby Valbonne – we knew it as a somewhat secluded, quiet, beautiful little secret hideaway. In recent years though, it has become more popular and busy.

Famous artists of the 20th century lived and worked there. It became an artistic colony and safe haven and there’s still that atmosphere and feel to it. When you walk through the small cobbled streets you can almost hear the echoes of Picasso, Matisse, Fernand Leger, Baldaccinni and Joan Miro from the cafes, restaurants and galleries.

art leger

The Man in the Blue Hat. (Fernand Leger)

There’s a small and tasteful hotel called La Colombe d’Or, these days frequented by the likes of Bill Wyman, Bono and the distinct sound of Sarkozy’s Cuban heels clicking to drown out Carla Bruni’s woeful out of tune guitar as she desperately resuscitates her career. It’s worth a visit because all the great artists used to pay for their stay or their dinner by doodling on a napkin, or donating a sketch, painting or sculpture. Everything is all on show, like all art should be. Picasso didn’t paint his work for tasteless billionaires or oligarchs to show off to their friends or worse still, have it locked in a safe as an investment. He created his art for the people. Works like Guernica were expressly painted to be exhibited so we could learn from the horrors of war.


Why would any artist, musician, or writer create something for one person to buy and lock away? Walking around Saint-Paul-de-Vence regenerates the soul. Artistically, everything flows so naturally. When you’re surrounded by such great art, the world feels different, it seems clearer, almost magical, enchanting and romantic. That’s the feeling you get when you walk in to La Colombe d’Or. There’s a portrait of Picasso and his eyes stare into your soul from behind the bar. The walls are laden with the distinctive fluidity of the works of Henri Matisse. Across the way from the hotel you have the Fondation Maeght, a museum of modern art housing Marc Chagall, Georges Braque, Bonnard and Alberto Giacometti, famed for his ‘Walking man’. His sculptures surround you in the gardens, open to view, part of the world we inhabit. Like art should be.


Carrying the Can

FX: BIG CLICHÉ CLAXON…Soul searching done. Check. Answers needed to be found. Check. Time for reflection. Check. Well the dust has settled. The big-wigs of the Scottish Labour party met to discuss what went wrong. An array of strange looking people waddled out of Labour HQ in Bath Street to a barrage of questions from the guy who steps in for Gordon Brewer on Sunday Politics who looks like a young Kenneth Williams.

In time honoured fashion, they refused to speak. Some couldn’t help themselves and started to babble on, some almost flung themselves in front of speeding cars rather than speak. Jim Murphy was present but was uncharacteristically shy and slipped out of the back door.

I don’t mind Jim Murphy I know he seems to rile people. I’m sure he’s a decent guy but how could such an experienced politician refuse to adopt any political intuition? Surely he should’ve sensed the sea change happening around him. Those advising and working on his campaign need to be questioned too. All that stuff with the Irn Bru? Really? Yeah that works for me. Look he’s drinking pure Scottish ginger. Forget economic policy; he drinks our other national drink. Jim is on the Irn Bru, know what, that chimes with me. He’s just like me. Why not eat square-sliced sausage on a white plain loaf? Connect with the people, that’s what they want isn’t it?

With his Irn Bru-isms Murphy reminded me of people I used to know years ago and left as soon as they could, to make money elsewhere and still hold up Irn Bru as some sort of quaint nostalgia-fest. It resonates as much as an after supper anecdote about deep friend Maz Baz, that’s how Jim pronounces Mars Bars. He’s flattened every semblance of an R from his vocabulary. It was all just painfully out of touch and hopelessly complacent. Slim Jim swanned up the road thinking Scottish Labour would be shooty-in, like the local allotment society AGM that might get troublesome, or maybe a rowdy PTA meeting.

Secondly and more importantly what was that all about with Angela Merkel in Glasgow dressed up like Eddie Izzard? Seriously?

Thirdly, on a lighter note, Scotland’s default position is always one of suspicion when it comes to trusting a man who doesn’t take a drink.


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