A new series…a mini series on Pablo Picasso…where I will feature through his quotes how he understood art, the world, society et cetera. I started with the most scandalous thing I could find about him, hope you like it.
PABLO PICASSO: Born in Malaga, 25 OCT 1881-Died in Mougins, 8 APR 1973).
The genius of XXth Century Art?
According to an article…supposedly…in a French magazine called Le Musee Vivant (1963), Picasso called himself a buffoon…however, the only source I’ve been able to locate on the subject has been this video by Antonio Garcia Villaran:
For the benefit of my readers who do not understand the Castilian language, I shall paraphrase what Picasso was saying…supposedly…in this 1963 interview:
He started by saying something that I certainly agree with and that is that the rich always sought out the new, the extravagant and the scandalous. He goes further and says that for his part, since Cubism, he has given them what they…the rich…want along with every extravagant thing that popped into his head and that the less they understood them the more they admired them (talking about such works as the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernika)…
Picasso goes on to describe his work as nonsense, rubbish, foolishness and the more he produced foolishness like that, the richer he got and that he gained celebrity status and that celebrity status guaranteed sales and much, much money and that he had become very rich and famous.
His (supposed) confession was that he made rubbish and that when he was alone with himself, he could not consider himself an artist at all, at least not in comparison with great ones. He names Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. He concluded he was just a public buffoon that has been able to understand the demands of his time and used that knowledge to advantage.
He called it his sad and painful confession whose merit was the truth, that he was being sincere…
I have to admit that some of the things he said about himself are quite surprising but not too far from possibly being true…although for me, Picasso is and remains the genius of the XXth Century, a genius and one of the greatest painters to grace the art of humanity. And like I said, I have not been able to find any evidence that the article or the interview ever existed except that it was published in a book (ARTE Y SUBVERSION by Alberto Boixadós) that Villaran alludes to in his video.
We do know that Gertrude Stein (an expat US citizen living in Paris and a patron of Picasso and the subject of one of his paintings “Portrait of Gertrude Stein”) wrote a book titled “Picasso” (Ed. Casimiro), and on page 11 she says that Picasso was interested in art merely as a job. In other words that he was interested in using art as a means solely of gaining money…
It is known that Picasso admired the work of Balthus and went as far as to say that Balthus was the only painter…of his generation…that he was interested in, that the others all want to be Picasso and that Balthus did not. We know that Balthus paintings follow the steps of the classical masters…
In any event, although Picasso did not write any books or essays on theories or on art, at all, he did have much to say. In this mini-series (I don’t know how long it will last) of Sunday mornings, I will try to bring out quotes and other anecdotes about my favourite painter, the Andalusian (born in Malaga) Pablo Picasso…
For this first edition I leave you with this quote (and its derivatives):
“I see for the others. That is to say I put down on the canvas the sudden visions which force themselves on me. I don’t know beforehand what I shall put on the canvas, even less can I decide what colours to use. Whilst I’m working I’m not aware of what I’m painting on the canvas. Each time I begin a picture, i have the feeling of throwing myself into space. I never know whether I’ll land on my feet. It’s only later that I begin to assess the effect of what I’ve done.”
(in John Berger, The success and failure of Picasso. (1965). Pantheon Books, New York, 1980, p. 136)
This is a powerful statement. The reference does not state when Picasso actually said that. That would give us an indication on when he thought that way because he was always learning, changing, growing…in his own words:
“But one constantly changes […] One can’t truly follow the creative act other than via a series of all its variations.”
(In Brassaï, Conversations avec Picasso. (1964). Gallimard, Paris, 1997, p. 285)
“It’s not enough to know an artist’s works. One must also know when he did them, why, how, in what circumstances […] I attempt to leave as complete a documentation as possible for posterity. This is why I date everything I do.”
(In Brassaï, Conversations avec Picasso. (1964). Gallimard, Paris, 1997,p. 150)
It is known that he did admire the surrealists, at least for some time, at some point in his life, as we see here:
“The surrealists were right in this sense. Reality is more than the thing itself. I always search out the surreal. Reality is the way things are seen… A painter who copies a tree is forbidden from seeing reality. I see things differently. A palm tree could become a horse.”
(In Roland Penrose. Picasso. His life and Work (1958). University of California Press, 1981)
I encourage all artists to get further acquainted with Art History, not necessarily the Art History that is being taught at many colleges and universities by professors who are not artists or if they are, are more interested in pushing forth the idea of art as a concept, as a business or as something ridiculous, like a banana taped to a wall. If art is that simple, so undignified that anyone can do it, then why do we marvel at the work of the great masters, to include DaVinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Goya, Velazquez, Rubens, Picasso et al?
Art History began with the museums which opened in the late XIXth Century, Le Louvre being the first. So I encourage you to learn from sources that truly take you through the ages, explaining you the ways and the means of these great artists. Then look beyond it because for many years the history of art did not include women artists…as if they did not exist…or artists that did not fit the fad of the times.
I do not say that such producers of what is called “art” nowadays (Koons, Hirst, Banksy, Yoko et al) are not artists, but what I do say is that what they produce and call art is nonsense that anyone can do without having to work too hard to achieve it and without even taxing the limits of the imagination. Better to learn from the masters than from the new artist millionaires who seek only to gain fame and fortune from little work and effort. If Picasso was referring to this, I quite agree. But Picasso worked hard, continuously and dilligently.
And like he (Picasso) said:
“Art is not made to decorate rooms. It is an offensive weapon in the defence against the enemy.”
“La peinture n’est pas faite pour décorer des appartements. C’est un instrument de guerre offensive et défensive contre l’ennemi.“
“La pintura no se ha inventado para adornar las habitaciones. La pintura es un arma ofensiva, en la defensa contra el enemigo.”
Les lettres françaises (1943-03-24).
I hope you have enjoyed this new mini-series about Picasso. If you have any thoughts or comments, I not only welcome them, I encourage them. I am sure that your comments will become the most exiting part of this series. And if you did like it, please don’t forget to hit that like button and to share.
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