Category Archives: Berthold Auerbach

One Cannot Invent What Does Not Exist. The Genius of Invention Lies in Rediscovering What Has Been Lost, Forgotten, or Misunderstood

Pablo Picasso? Jacques Lassaigne? Mary Chamot? Playboy?

paint10Dear Quote Investigator: I came across the following statement attributed to the prominent artist Pablo Picasso:

A painter cannot paint what does not exist. He can only rediscover what has been lost, forgotten or misunderstood.

This is certainly a curious ontological outlook, but I have not been able to find a good citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: This statement was ascribed to Pablo Picasso in “Playboy” magazine in 1964, but QI believes this evidence was flawed. A full citation is given further below.

The earliest strong match found by QI appeared in the critical commentary accompanying a 1939 art book about the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The critic was Jacques Lassaigne, and his words were translated from French to English by Mary Chamot. Lassaigne’s topic was invention and not painting. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

It is obvious that one cannot invent what does not exist. The genius of invention lies in rediscovering what has been lost, forgotten or misunderstood: scientific theory teaches us that no energy is lost in the world, but that it changes.

Interestingly, the commentary by Lassaigne included another passage about the different motivations of artists and the diverse milieus of creation. The highlighted phrase within the following excerpt was later reassigned to Picasso in 1964: 2

Are the tortuous bye-ways and secret experiences necessary and productive? I think it is a question of intention: they are valuable and enriching only so far as they are not made to oblige: art can certainly not be born in artifice. For the rest, in plastic values we can only judge by results, not by intentions.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1939, Toulouse Lautrec by Jacques Lassaigne, Translated from French to English by Mary Chamot, Quote Page 28, The Hyperion Press, Paris. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1939, Toulouse Lautrec by Jacques Lassaigne, Translated from French to English by Mary Chamot, Quote Page 29, The Hyperion Press, Paris. (Verified on paper)

Music Washes Away from the Soul the Dust of Everyday Life

Pablo Picasso? Berthold Auerbach? Playboy? Aline Saarinen? Anonymous?

rainbow07Dear Quote Investigator:The following adage has been attributed to the famous painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso. Here are two versions:

1) Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
2) The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.

I was surprised to discover a similar remark about music ascribed to a prominent German writer named Berthold Auerbach. Here are two versions:

1) Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
2) Music cleanses the soul from the dust and dross of everyday life.

What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In 1864 Berthold Auerbach published the novel “Auf der Höhe” (“On the Heights”) which included the following statement in German about the cleansing nature of music: 1

. . . die Musik wäscht ihnen den Alltagsstaub von der Seele . . .

In 1867 a translation of the book by Fanny Elizabeth Bunnett was released. One of Auerbach’s characters was appointed to the position of general superintendent of the Royal Theatricals, and he sought advice from another character. He was told that music was essential to dramatic works, and it should be included before the beginning and between the acts of a play. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

I know every art wishes now to isolate itself and be independent, and not to be subject to others. A drama without music is a repast without wine. When men see a great drama without having passed before hand through the initiatory undulations of music, they appear to me as if unconsecrated, unpurified; music washes away from the soul, the dust of every day life, and says to each one; ‘thou art now no longer in thine office, or in the barracks, or in thy workshop’.

The analogous saying about art was attributed to Pablo Picasso in 1964, but the artist was not being quoted directly, and this linkage might be spurious. A detailed citation is given further below.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1866, Auf der Höhe: Roman in acht Büchern von Berthold Auerbach, Volume 2, Quote Page 70, Cotta’schen Buchh., Stuttgart, Germany. (Original publication was in 1864 according to several bibliographies) (HathiTrust Full View) link link
  2. 1867, On the Heights by Berthold Auerbach, Volume 2 of 3, Third Book: Seventh Chapter, Quote Page 64, Translated by F. E. Bunnett (Fanny Elizabeth Bunnett), Published by Bernhard Tauhnitz, Leipzig, Germany. (Google Books Full View) link