Jünger visits Picasso
From the Paris diary of Ernst Jünger, 22 July 1942 (full text here):
This afternoon I called on Picasso. He lives in a spacious building whose storeys now serve as lofts and storerooms. This house in the Rue des Grands-Augustines plays a role in the novels of Balzac, and it was there that they brought Ravaillac after he murdered the king. In one of the corners rose a narrow winding staircase with steps of stone and old oakwood. Tacked to a narrow door was a sheet of paper on which the word ICI was written in blue crayon. After I had rung the bell, the door was opened to me by a short man in a simple overall, Picasso himself. I had met him once before briefly, and again I had the impression that I was looking at a magician—an impression enhanced on that occasion by a little pointed green hat.
Apart from a small flat and some storage closets, the domicile consisted of two capacious lofts, the lower of which, it seemed, he used for sculptural work, the upper for painting. The plaster floor was bricked in a honeycomb pattern, the yellow-washed walls buttressed by dark beams of oak. Also beneath the ceilings ran black ribs of oakwood. The premises seemed to me well suited for work; they had the fecundity of old attics in which time stands still.
First we looked at old papers downstairs, then ascended to the upper story. Among the paintings that stood there, two simple female portraits struck my fancy, and then, above all, a stretch of seashore that seemed to blossom before my eyes in ever greater intensities of red and yellow. While regarding it, we talked about painting and writing from memory. Picasso asked me what real landscape was to be looked for behind the Marble Cliffs.
Other pictures, such as a series of asymmetrical heads, struck me as monstrous. Nevertheless, such an extraordinary talent—whom we have seen devote himself for years and decades to such subjects—must be granted an objectivity of vision, even if it eludes our own perception. Ultimately it involves something not yet seen and not yet born, experiments of an alchemical nature—in fact, several times he used the word retort. Never was it so compellingly and so eerily plain to me that the homunculus is more than an idle invention. The image of man is magically prefigured, and few suspect the terrible profundity of the decision the painter makes.
Dora Maar au chat (1942)
Although I tried more than once to steer him onto this subject, he was evasive, perhaps deliberately: “There are chemists who spend their entire lives exploring the elements hidden in a lump of sugar. Well, I’d like to know what color is.”
On the influence of his works: “My pictures would have the same effect if after finishing them I wrapped them up and sealed them without showing them to anyone. They are essentially manifestations of an immediate nature.”
On the war: “The two of us, as we sit here, would negotiate peace this very afternoon. In the evening mankind could light the candles.”
Jünger in the 1930’s