Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pablo Picasso's Confessions

Pablo Picasso's Confessions

In many of my discussions with people who defend "modern art", people express the idea that the artist is by definition right about his evaluation of his own "art" and that nobody else can really decide whether or not it is good or valuable since "It could be that there's really something deeply important hidden beyond your ability to interpret it." Though I don't subscribe to that position myself, it might be instructive for such people to listen to what Pablo Picasso, one of the early proponents of the ugly and meaningless in 20th century painting had to say about his work.

This page previously included quotes reportedly taken from an interview with Picasso by Giovanni Papini called "Picasso Confesses". As it turns out this was a fantasy interview which never took place. As it turns out, Picasso said numerous things at least as bad as what was reported earlier.

On Sayings..."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." (Dor del la Souchere, 1960, p. 13)

On The Parthenon..."The Parthenon is really only a farmyard over which someone put a roof; colonades and sculptures were added because there were people in Athens who happened to be working and wanted to express themselves. It is not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cezanne would never have interested me a bit if he had lived and thought like Jacques Emile Blanche, even if the apple he painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our interest is Cezanne's anxiety - that's Cezanne's lesson; the torments of Van Gogh - that is the actual drama of the man. The rest is a sham." (Cashiers de Art, Conversation Avec Picasso, 1949)

On The Dictatorship of the Painter(s)..."There ought to be an absolute dictatorship...a dictatorship of painters...a dictatorship of one painter...to suppress all those who have betrayed us, to suppress the cheaters, to suppress the tricks, to suppress the mannerisms, to suppress charms, to suppress history, to suppress a heap of other things. But common sense always gets away with it. Above all, let's have a revolution against that! The true dictator will always be conquered by the dictatorship of common sense...and maybe not!" (Cashiers de Art, Conversation Avec Picasso, 1949)

On Guernica and Communism..."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." (Interview with Jerome Seckler, 1945, Picasso Explains)

On Truth..."What is truth? Truth cannot exist. ... Truth does not exist. ... Truth is a lie." (Parmelin, Picasso: The Artist, His Model, and Other Related Works, 1965, p. 110)

On How Awful Art Is..."Enough of Art. It's Art that kills us. People no longer want to do painting: they make art. People want Art. And they are given it. But the less Art there is in painting the more painting there is." (Parmelin, Picasso Plain, 1964, p. 30)

On Truth and Lies..."We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies." (The Arts, Picasso Speaks, 1923)

On The Threat of Artists..."[T]oday we haven't the heart to expel the painters and poets from society because we refuse to admit to ourselves that there is any danger in keeping them in our midst." (Cashiers de Art, Conversation Avec Picasso, 1949)

On Academic Training..."Academic training in beauty is a sham. We have been so deceived, but so well deceived that we can scarcely get back even a shadow of the truth." (Cashiers de Art, Conversation Avec Picasso, 1949)

On Planning..."I see, for others, that is to say, in order to put on canvas the sudden apparitions which come to me. I don't know in advance what I am going to put on canvas any more than I decide beforehand what colors I am going to use. While I am working I am not conscious of what I am putting on the canvas. Each time I undertake to paint a picture I have a sensation of leaping into space. I never know whether I shall fall on my feet. It is only later that I begin to estimate more exactly the effect of my work." (Zervos, Pablo Picasso, 1932, p. xv)

On The Virtue of Vagueness..."You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea." (Kahnweiler, Juan Gris: sa vie, son oeuvre, ses ecrits, 1946, p. 83)

On Planning..."One never knows what one is going to do. One starts a painting and then it becomes something quite else. It is remarkable how little the 'willing' of the artist intervenes." (Kahnweiler, Gesprache mit Picasso, 1959, p. 85-98)

On Subjects..."...even if the painting is green, well then! the 'subject' is the green. There is always a subjet; it's a joke to suppress the subject, it's impossible." (Parmelin, Picasso: The Artist and His Model, and other Recent Works, 1965, p. 43)

On Bad Habits..."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." (Gallego Morell, de Renoir a Picasso, 1958, p. 3)

On Imitation..."Imitators? All right! Disciples if your like. But disciples be damned. It's not interesting. It's only the masters that matter. Those who create. And they don't even turn around when you piss on their heels..." (Georges-Michel, de Renoir a Picasso, 1954, p. 94-95)

On Imitation..."What does it mean for a painter to paint in the manner of So-and-So or to actually imitate someone else? What's wrong with that? On the contrary, it's a good idea. You should constantly try to paint like someone else. But the thing is, you can't! You would like to. You try. But it turns out to be a botch...And at the very moment you make a botch of it that you're yourself." (Parmelin, Picasso: The Artist and His Model, and other Recent Works, 1965, p. 43)

On Beauty..."'I have never in any museum seen a picture as beautiful as this one.' [Picasso] said to me, pointing to a sheet of tin hanging on the door. 'the man who painted this picture was not thinking of his glory.'" (Sabartes, Picasso: portraits et souvenirs, 1946, p. 210-212)

On Bad Paintings..."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." (Guttuso, Journals, Quoted in Mario De Micheli, 1964)

On Objective Reality..."The goal I proposed myself in making cubism? To paint and nothing more. And to paint seeking a new expression, divested of useless realism, with a method linked only to my thought - without enslaving myself with objective reality. Neither the good nor the true; neither the useful or the useless." (Del Pomar, Con las Buscadores del Camino, 1932, p. 126)

On Beauty, Art, and Research..."I have a horror of people who speak about the beautiful. What is the beautiful? One must speak of problems in painting! Paintings are but research and experiment. I never do a painting as a work of art. All of them are researches." (Liberman, Picasso, Vogue, November 1, 1956)

On Blindness as a Virtue..."[T]hey ought to put out the eyes of painters as they do goldfinches in order that they can sing better." (Teriade, En causant avec Picasso, Intransigeant, June 15, 1932)

On Kiddie Art...When visiting an exhibition of children's drawings, Piscasso remarked: "When I was their age I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them." (Penrose, Picasso: His Life and Work, 1958, p. 275)

On Imposters..."Museums are just a lot of lies, and the people who make art their business are mostly imposters." (Zervos, Conversation avec Picasso, 1935)

On Symbolism and Communism..."If I paint a hammer and sickle people may think it is a representation of Communism, but for me it is only a hammer and sickle. I just want to reproduce the objects for what they are, not for what they mean." (Interview with Jerome Seckler, Picasso Explains, 1945)

On Re-Education Camps and Art..."If everyone would paint, political re-education would be unnecessary." (Spender, Keeping a Great City Alive, Vogue, December 1946, p. 194, 224, 226)

On Art as a Weapon..."No, painting is not made to decorate apartments, it's an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy." (Tery, Picasso, n'est pas officer dans l'Armee francaise, Les Lettres Francaises, March 24, 1945)

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