I am stretching the definition of nonfiction with the book I’m sharing this week, but it’s more true than not, and it’s a good introduction to Picasso and his art:
P.I. Maltbie’s Picasso and Minou, illustrated by Pau Estrada, tells the story of the relationship between Picasso and his cat, Minou, a stray he found on the streets of Paris. The story opens with Picasso in his Blue Period, painting sad blue painting after sad blue painting that no one wants to buy. Eventually he can no longer afford to feed Minou, so he puts the cat back on the street. But Minou has another idea: she goes off exploring, finds some lovely circus performers who generously share their meal with her, and she carries a sausage back to share with Picasso.
When I got to that part of the story, I felt like I had moved past the realm of the fictional into the realm of the totally unbelievable. But it turns out that part of the story is true: Minou really did show up at Picasso’s door with a sausage in her mouth. And how could he resist that? He welcomed her back.
The actual fictional part of the story comes next: Minou leads Picasso to her new circus performer friends. Soon, they become Picasso’s new friends too, and, even better, he is inspired to paint them (in lovely shades of pink), and these new paintings sell. Picasso really did follow his Blue Period with the Rose Period, and many of these paintings do feature circus performers, but Minou didn’t lead him to the circus.
There is a helpful Author’s Note at the back explaining which parts of the story are factual and which parts fictional.
Estrada’s art brings Paris to life as well as portraying the progression of three of Picasso’s major art periods.
Picasso was apparently a lifelong cat lover. Check out the images at Cultural Cat, featuring some of his paintings of cats as well as several terrific photos. Somehow I like Picasso ever so much more after seeing a photo of his harnessed kitten sitting on his shoulder.