Philip Bloch , with a copy of Picasso : Art can be erotic

When art historian Jean Leymarie was preparing a talk for a symposium on art and sexuality, he asked his friend Picasso where he drew the line between these two concepts.

The painter replied: “They are the same thing, because art can only be erotic.”….

Diana Widmaier Picasso and Michael Stipe, at Calvin Klein

Diana Widmaier Picasso used her grandfather’s statement as the title of her book, an exploration of an area of Picasso’s work to which polite society turned a blind eye for decades.

What underlies Picasso’s entire work, she argues, is an erotic drive transformed into artistic desire – one an extension of the other.

Picasso would have revelled in the in-your-face culture of the 21st century. He would have embraced it, warts and all, gobbled it up for breakfast and demanded more.

He hated the hypocrisy of the time he was born into; hated that a seminal painting had to be euphemistically retitled Les Demoiselles d’Avignon to avoid censorship and possible legal proceedings in 1916. Half a century later, it still riled.

“How the name irritates me,” he wrote to his dealer in 1952. “You know very well it was cal led the Avignon Brothel originally.”

To his way of thinking, 20 years on things hadn’t greatly improved.

In 1970, an exhibition organised by Yvonne Zervos in Avignon caused a huge scandal. The drawings were considered so pornographic they were hung in the highest part of the chapel of the Papal Palace.

Pornography is an unsavoury word, suggestive of brutality and exploitation.

The dictionary defines it as ‘an explicit description of sexual activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings’.

Yet there is no denying the aesthetic appeal of Picasso’s early erotic drawings, the tenderness of Two Women on a Bed, 1905, the delicacy portrayed in The Clinch, painted the same year, and the irrepressible wit of Angel Fernandez with a Woman, a cheeky depiction of nonchalant partners in crime – a naked lady quaffing champagne as a gent with a pipe does what comes naturally.

This was to change.

By 1925, tendresse had given way to debauchery. Le Baiser, painted that year, is a grotesque depiction of sexual violence, a lack of inhibition stamped with bestiality.

For the next half century, Picasso would continue to paint images that still shock through the force of their passion.

His granddaughter’s aim is to make public “the fruits of his overflowing vitality’‘, as a man and an artist. She has done so with an honesty the artist would applaud