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Picasso’s tips to survive the pandemic: Read, cook, drink, draw, love, bird-watch and beach-comb

By Jim Bloch

This article was originally published on April 9, 2020.

Pablo Picasso, the famous Spanish painter, has a few recommendations to keep your mind sharp and your soul sated during these long weeks of social isolation designed the slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read a good book. Cook an unexpected meal. Eat plenty of fruit. Drink an unusual liquor. Draw your partner. Put up a birdfeeder — home improvement stores are open and deemed essential services. Frolic with someone you love. Walk on the beach. Play some music.

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Of course, Picasso has been dead almost exactly 47 years, exiting the earth on April 8, 1973 after a 92-year life brimming with action, art and romance.

You have to engage in some creative interpolation to tease out Picasso’s recommendations.

The Detroit Institute of Art has just the tool you need. Among its virtual offerings, the museum has put 99 percent of its 61,251 piece collection online at https://www.dia.org/art/collection . Enter “Picasso” in the search-for-art box, click “search-collection” and 117 items by or related to Picasso pop up. Scroll through them in search of recommendations. Remember: You must apply a dollop of imagination to coax his advice in his canvases.

In “Girl Reading,” a 1938 oil on canvas, Picasso suggests that a good book can take you vibrantly and colorfully out of the claustrophobic white room of your quarantine.

In “Still Life with Lobster,” a 1943 aquatint printed in color ink on laid paper, Picasso seems to suggest that cooking an unexpected meal can lift your spirits.

In another 1938 canvas, “Fruit, Carafe and Glass,” the artist proclaims the benefits of eating oranges and keeping yourself well hydrated.

If you ignore these tips, you’re liable to end up eating “The Meal of the Destitute,” a 1903-1904 pen, ink and watercolor work.

It’s never too late for an unusual libation, as suggested by his 1915 oil on canvas, “Bottle of Anis del Mono,” a portrait of the sweet, spicy aniseed liqueur.

Rekindle or deepen your ability to draw. Use your partner as a model. Use Picasso’s 1928 “Visage” for inspiration.

Put up a bird feeder and keep track of what you see. Pablo saw a “Dove” in his 1949 lithograph, a “Pigeon blanc fond noir” in 1947 and “Owl with a Chair” in the same year.

Frolic in the sand with someone you love, as Pablo is doing in the 1965 photograph by Lucien Clergue, “Picasso at the Beach, Cannes.”

If you forget your swimsuit, don’t worry ala “Bather by the Sea,” the artist’s 1939 gouache on paper.

For music, you have to leave the DIA and head to somewhere like the Guggenheim in New York, where the artist’s exuberant oil and sand work “Mandolin and Guitar,” painted in 1924, is displayed.

Ignore Pablo’s advice at your own risk. You could end up like his 1902 blue oil, “Melancholy Woman.”

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