Pablo’s passions |

Pablo’s passions

Wren Wertin
Special to the Daily"Vase with foliage and three sea urchins," 1946, oil on paper glued to canvas.

Good art, good food – the combination isn’t new. And the folks at the Vail Symposium are blatant connoisseurs of both. Sunday, they host a dinner and lecture at Larkspur in Vail which will explore Pablo Picasso’s passion for art, women, and fine cuisine.

For the event, they bring in their favorite and most animated professor, Bob Nauman. He’s teaching 19th and 20th century art and architectural history at Colorado University at Boulder, and his latest book, “On the Wings of Modernism – dealing with Cold War architecture,” will be released this winter. His most applicable credential, though, is his past Vail Symposium evenings, wherein he offered up a succinct slide show accompanied by his own thoughtful and non-stuffy comments on the subject du jour.

“I always look forward to talking with the people associated with the Vail Symposium,” he said. “They’re a very articulate and well-rounded group of people. I hope to share some thoughts on Picasso without being pretentious. This will be evening of fine food … so I’m excited because I love to eat. The Vail group always does a first class job with the dinner aspect, which puts pressure on me to do an equally fine job with the discussion.”

The format will be similar to past events – a short discussion, food, drinks, and even more discussion. As he’s staying overnight in the valley, he’ll be willing to stick around and chat until everybody gets thrown out of the restaurant. With Picasso as a subject, there’s likely to be a few strong opinions out there.

“I think Picasso intrigues – or frustrates – a lot of people because he never let himself be pigeonholed,” said Nauman. “He constantly changed styles and was adept with all of them. People have therefore situated him within various camps: as a Symbolist, a Cubist, a classicist, or a Surrealist, to name but a few. In fact, people are not sure whether to peg him as a French or Spanish artist, or even how to enumerate or define the influences on his work.”

That wide range of styles and influences is in part why Nauman finds the artist so interesting. But as Nauman pointed out, it’s difficult to “critically address his work without simply making it an extension of his biography, which can be very limiting and even superficial.”

Does he think Picasso had a grand sense of humor?

“I think a grand sense of humor may have been a part of Picasso’s personality – he certainly enjoyed partying with friends,” said the professor. “But I also think he was extremely temperamental and self-centered. I don’t think it would be appropriate to make Picasso out to be some sort of heroic figure, especially in his treatment of women, which was sometimes downright abominable.”

The wide range of Picasso also included personal feelings toward food, luxury and philosophy, all depending on where he was in his life. He had definite feelings – passionate feelings – about almost everything. And he changed often.

“Food, for Picasso, occupied lesser or greater degrees of importance according to his economic and/or political circumstances,” explained Nauman. “Sometimes he condemned extravagance (within a socialist or communist agenda); other times he was quite extravagant. He seemed, in general, to prefer foods that were simply prepared and presented. My focus for the Vail lecture will be his still lifes and how/why he depicted food in his art as he did.”

The chefs at Larkspur, including proprietor Thomas Salamunovich and executive chef Peter Hillback, will stay true to Picasso’s simple approach to food, albeit with a Larkspur-ian twist.

They perused in depth the book, “Picasso: Bon Vivant,” which looks at Picasso’s penchant for food both on his table and within his artwork.

“Each course is something out of the book,” said Hillback. “We elaborated a little, and added a little. It’s more of an interpretation.”

Hillback lived for a while in Europe, and had the opportunity to experience some of the smaller museums that displayed some of Picasso’s less famous works in addition to his well known art.

At Larkspur, food is as much about design as it is about flavors. So hosting an evening of art discourse and food is a good match for the restaurant.

“There’s always a design element, particularly when Thomas is involved,” said Hillback. “This might be a little simpler, because some of the paintings that Picasso did later in life seemed to strip away some of the elements he used earlier. And this food is going to do that, too.”

For more information on “Picasso’s Passions,” contact the Vail Symposium at 476-0954.

Garlic and chili crusted gambas

Trio of Tapas:

Roasted tomato-rubbed country bread with jamon Serrano and manchego

Cucumber gazpacho with cask-aged sherry

Calamari and fennel salad with saffron and anise flavors

Alaskan halibut with mussels, clams and tomato zarzuela

Honey-roasted Colorado peaches with cabrales and toasted pinones

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.

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