Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) loved to talk. He was never short of a quip and, as a master of self-promotion, this was a useful talent for him to have. What you may not know is that most of the short quotations one reads were throw-aways to the press. That isn't to say they aren't important to us, because they are! They don't necessarily reflect the artist's full thoughts, though. As Picasso himself said, "If you take my sayings and explode them in the air, they remain only sayings. But if you fit them together in their correct places, you will have the whole story."
Well, Picasso expounded on many thousands of subjects in his 91 years, so that is an awfully tall order. But we do continue to try, compelled by the sheer force of his genius and the tantalizing possibility of understanding it. To get you started, here is a sampling of Picasso's sayings for you to take and explode in the air.
- Arts of transition do not exist. In the chronological history of art there are periods which are more positive, more complete than others. This means that there are periods in which there are better artists than in others. If the history of art could be graphically represented, as in a chart used by a nurse to mark the changes of temperature of her patient, the same silhouettes of mountains would be shown, proving that in art there is no ascendant progress, but that it follows certain ups and downs that might occur at any time. The same occurs with the work of an individual artist.
- They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern painting. I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not.
- Neither is there figurative and non-figurative art. All things appear to us in the shape of forms. Even in metaphysics ideas are expressed by forms, well then think how absurd it would be to think of painting without the imagery of forms. A figure, an object, a circle, are forms; they affects us more or less intensely.
- What a sad fate for a painter who loves blondes, but who refrains from putting them in his picture because they don’t go with the basket of fruit! What misery for a painter who hates apples to be obliged to use them all the time because they go with the cloth! I put everything I love in my paintings. So much the worse for the things, they have only to arrange themselves with one another.
- I paint the way someone bite his fingernails; for me, painting is a bad habit because I don't know nor can I do anything else.
- Among the several sins that I have been accused of, none is more false than that I have, as the principal objective in my work, the spirit of research. When I paint, my object is to show what I have found and not what I am looking for. In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.
- I like all painting. I always look at the paintings -- good or bad -- in barbershops, furniture stores, provincial hotels ... I'm like a drinker who needs wine. As long as it is wine, it doesn't matter which wine.
On Other Artists
- Velázquez left us his idea of the people of his epoch. Undoubtedly they were different from the way he painted them, but we cannot conceive a Philip IV in any other way than the one Velázquez painted. Rubens also made a portrait of the same king and in Rubens' portrait he seems to be quite another person. We believe in the one painted by Velázquez, for he convinces us by his right of might.
- Do I know Cézanne? He's my one and only master. -- said to photographer Brassaï (1899-1984) sometime in the 1930s.
- It is not what the artist does that counts. But what he is. Cézanne would never have interested me if he had lived and thought like Jacques-Emile Blanche, even if the apple he had painted had been ten times more beautiful. What interests us is the anxiety of Cézanne, the teaching of Cézanne, the anguish of van Gogh, in short the inner drama of the man. The rest is false.
- When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is. I’m not crazy about those cocks and asses and flying violinists and all the folklore, but his canvasses are really painted, not just thrown together. Some of the last things he's done in Vence convince me that there’s never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has.
On His Childhood
- My mother said to me, 'If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.' Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.
- Unlike in music, there are no child prodigies in painting. What people regard as genius is the genius of childhood. It gradually disappears as they get older. It is possible for such a child to become a real painter one day, perhaps even a great painter. But he would have to start right from the beginning. So as far as I am concerned, I did not have this genius. My first drawings could never have been shown at an exhibition of children's drawings. I lacked the clumsiness of a child, his naivety. I made academic drawings at the age of seven, the minute precision of which frightened me.
On His Blue Period
- Thinking of Casagemas being dead makes me paint in blue. -- Picasso's close friend from Barcelona and roommate in Paris, fellow painter Carlos Casagemas (1881-1901), died of a self-inflicted gunshot after being disappointed by love.
- Cubism is no different from any other school of painting. The same principles and the same elements are common to all. The fact that for a long time Cubism has not been understood and that even today there are people who cannot see anything in it, means nothing. I do not read English, an English book is a blank book to me. This does not mean that the English language does not exist.
- Mathematics, trigonometry, chemistry, psychoanalysis, music and what-not, have been related to Cubism to give it an easier interpretation. All this has been pure literature, not to say nonsense, which has only succeeded in blinding people with theories.
- I have become a Communist because the Communists are the bravest in France, in the Soviet Union, as they are in my own country, Spain. . . . While I wait for the time when Spain can take me back again, the French Communist party is a fatherland for me.
- I am a Communist and my painting is a Communist painting. But if I were a shoemaker, Royalist or Communist or anything else, I would not necessarily hammer my shoes in any special way to show my politics. -- speaking of his masterpiece Guernica (1937)
- What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only his eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician or a lyre at every level of his heart if he‘s a poet ...? On the contrary, he's at the same time a political being, constantly alive to heart rendering fiery or happy events, to which he responds in every way . . . No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.
- We don't grow older, we grow riper.
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