Category Archives: Letitia Elizabeth Landon

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)

We Love Music for the Buried Hopes, the Garnered Memories, the Tender Feelings, It Can Summon with a Touch

Letitia Elizabeth Landon? Pablo Picasso? Samuel Rogers?

landon09Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been attributed to the major artist Pablo Picasso:

Art! I love it for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, the tender feelings it can summon at a touch.

Curiously, a similar remark about music has been attributed to the Victorian novelist and poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon:

We love music for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, the tender feelings it can summon at a touch.

The poet Samuel Rogers has also been linked to the words above. Would you please help to dispel this confusion?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in the novel “Romance and Reality” by L.E.L. The three initials were used to designate the author Letitia Elizabeth Landon. The following passage employed a simile based on a magic lamp. Thus, the phrase “summon with a touch” referred to both a magical genie and intense feelings. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The man who stands listening to even a barrel-organ, because it repeats the tones “he loved from the lips of his nurse”—or who follows a common ballad-singer, because her song is familiar in its sweetness, or linked with touching words, or hallowed by the remembrance of some other and dearest voice—surely that man has a thousand times more “soul for music” than he who raves about execution, chromatic runs, semi-tones, &c. We would liken music to Aladdin’s lamp–worthless in itself, not so for the spirits which obey its call. We love it for the buried hopes, the garnered memories, the tender feelings, it can summon with a touch.

The parallel 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. By 2003 the saying about music was being credited to Samuel Rogers who had died in 1855. QI believes this linkage was not substantive.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 1831, Romance and Reality by L.E.L. (Letitia Elizabeth Landon), Volume 1 of 3, Chapter 8, Quote Page 64, Published by Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, London. (Google Books Full View) link