Category Archives: Pablo Picasso

When Painters Get Together They Talk About Where You Can Buy the Best Turpentine

Pablo Picasso? Jean Renoir? Garson Kanin? Apocryphal?

turpentine14Dear Quote Investigator: Critics discuss abstruse theories of creativity and engage in esoteric scrutiny of aesthetics while artists are primarily concerned with the practical. Admittedly, this is an oversimplification. Here is a statement that makes a similar point:

When art critics get together they talk about form and structure and meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.

Did Picasso really say this?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of a comparable expression located by QI appeared in a 1966 book by the screenwriter and director Garson Kanin who ascribed the words to Picasso: 1

Picasso says that when art critics get together they talk about content, style, trend and meaning, but that when painters get together they talk about where can you get the best turpentine.

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Notes:

  1. 1966, Remembering Mr. Maugham by Garson Kanin, Quote Page 45, Atheneum, New York. (Verified on paper)

I Am Only a Public Entertainer Who Has Understood His Times

Pablo Picasso? Giovanni Papini? Apocryphal?

picasso07Dear Quote Investigator: Pablo Picasso reportedly admitted in a “Confession” that he did not consider himself a great artist; instead, he was an entertainer who shocked and amused the rich and indolent to gain fame and wealth. Did Picasso really say this?

Quote Investigator: No. The well-known “Confession” was invented by an Italian journalist and literary critic named Giovanni Papini who wrote two novels filled with fictional encounters between the main character, a businessman named Gog, and famous figures such as Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Pablo Picasso.

The first satirical work titled “Gog” was published in 1931, and the sequel “Il Libro Nero: Nuovo Diario di Gog” (The Black Book: New Gog Diary) was released in 1951. 1 Papini’s writings were not intended to mislead readers. Yet, the fascinating statements he crafted for the luminaries were compelling enough to be remembered and misremembered. Reprinted passages in periodicals and books sometimes incorrectly indicated that the words were genuine. For example, in 1993 the scholar Frederick Crews wrote a powerful essay titled “The Unknown Freud” in “The New York Review of Books”. Unfortunately, one segment of the essay presented a statement ascribed to Freud by Papini as authentic. During the subsequent discussion Crews apologized and stated that his error stemmed from other scholarly works that improperly ascribed the words to Freud. 2 3

A comparable misunderstanding occurred regarding Panini’s mock interview with Picasso. A columnist writing for “The Washington Post” in 1952 noticed that Paris newspapers were printing the interview. He accepted the Picasso attribution and shared fragments of the text with his readers: 4

Paris newspapers are agog. The story has been picked up by several American publications including Quick.

Admitting himself to be “a public entertainer” exploiting as best he could “the foolishness, the vanity and the greed” of his contemporaries, Picasso recently confessed that he merely sought to please master and critic with the “new, the strange, the original, the extravagant, the scandalous … the less they understood them the more they admired me.”

Over the years, multiple translations have been created, and sometimes the translations have been indirect, e.g., English text has been derived from French text created from Italian text.

A 1954 book lambasting modern art titled “Peril on Parnassus” by William F. Alder included a version of the fictive remarks. However, a reviewer in the “Los Angeles Times” responded skeptically: 5

Giovanni Papini’s alleged interview with Picasso, in which that painter was quoted as calling himself “a public clown, a mountebank,” is printed early in the book. But no mention is made of Picasso’s denial.

In January 1964 a journal of arts and literature called “Origin” published “A Confession” with a Pablo Picasso byline. The editor was unaware that the piece was based on “Il Libro Nero”. It began as follows: 6

When I was young, like all the young, art, great art, was my religion; but, with the years, I came to see that art, as it was understood until 1800, was henceforth finished, on its last legs, doomed, and that so-called artistic activity with all its abundance is only the many-formed manifestation of its agony. Men are detached from and more and more disinterested in painting, sculpture and poetry.

The imaginary Picasso suggested that modern artists resorted to “expedients of intellectual charlatanism”. Picasso’s own works, he felt, consisted of whims, tom-fooleries, brain-busters, and arabesques. He concluded his essay:

Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich. But when completely alone with myself, I haven’t the nerve to consider myself an artist in the great and ancient sense of the word. There have been great painters like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his time.

This is a bitter confession, mine, more painful indeed than it may seem, but it has the merit of being sincere.

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Notes:

  1. WorldCat Entry, Year: 1951, Title: Il Libro Nero: Nuovo Diario di Gog, Author: Giovanni Papini, Publisher: [Firenze]: Vallecchi, Language: Italian, (English Title Translation: The Black Book: New Gog Diary)
  2. 1993 December 16, The New York Review of Books, Footnote to Freud by Frederick C. Crews, Publisher: Rea S. Hederman, New York. (Online archive at nybooks.com) link
  3. 1994 February 3, The New York Review of Books, The Unknown Freud: An Exchange, (Letters responding to “The Unknown Freud” by Frederick Crews from J. Schimek, James Hopkins, Herbert S. Peyser, David D. Olds, and Marian Tolpin, et al. Also several replies from Frederick Crews), Publisher: Rea S. Hederman, New York. (Online archive at nybooks.com) link
  4. 1952 August 3, The Washington Post, Four Books About Art: Picasso Gave His ‘Silly’ Era in Painting a Blow, (Several books reviewed by Sterling North), Quote Page B7, Column 4, Washington, D.C. (ProQuest)
  5. 1954 September 19, Los Angeles Times, New Art Books by A.M., Quote Page D7, Column 5, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)
  6. 1964 January, Origin, Second Series, Issue 12, Pablo Picasso: A Confession, (Note: The article presents an incorrect ascription to Picasso), Start Page 1, End Page 2, Editor: Cid Corman, Yamaha Art Gallery, Kyoto, Japan. (Verified with scans; thanks to the librarians of Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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

When There’s Anything To Steal, I Steal

Pablo Picasso? Françoise Gilot? Carlton Lake? Apocryphal?

art08Dear Quote Investigator: Pablo Picasso was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. He was also open to the ideas and approaches of other creators. The following remark has been attributed to the master painter:

When there’s anything to steal, I steal.

Is this statement authentic?

Quote Investigator: There is a substantive citation supporting this quotation. In 1964 “Life with Picasso” by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake was published. Gilot was a long-time companion and muse of Picasso; they had two children together. She was also an independent artist and writer. Her coauthor, Lake, was an art critic.

Gilot described a visit that she and Picasso made to the fellow artist Henri Laurens who seemed delighted with the meeting. Gilot concluded that Laurens was especially welcoming because he was not in his studio. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Most of the painters and sculptors Pablo called on were a little uneasy when Pablo was in their ateliers, perhaps because Pablo often said, “When there’s anything to steal, I steal.” So they all felt, I think, that if they showed him work they were doing and something caught his eye, he would take it over but do it much better and then everyone else would think that they had copied it from him.

Gilot was with Picasso primarily between 1944 and 1953; hence, the 1964 book was published after a decade delay. Yet, her coauthor was convinced that the quotations presented were accurate. The information in her testimony that Lake was able to cross-check was correct: 2

. . . I have been continuously impressed by her demonstration of the extent to which that much abused term “total recall” can be literally true. Françoise knows exactly what she said, what Pablo said, every step of the way for the ten years and more that they spent together. The direct quotations from Picasso are exactly that.

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Notes:

  1. 1964, Life with Picasso by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Part VI, Quote Page 317, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1964, Life with Picasso by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Section: Foreword, Quote Page 9, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

Nothing Can Be Accomplished Without Solitude

Pablo Picasso? Apocryphal?

solitude08Dear Quote Investigator: To accomplish an arduous cerebral task it is necessary to avoid quotidian interruptions and achieve a deeper form of concentration. The remarkable painter Pablo Picasso has been credited with the following perceptive adage:

Without great solitude no serious work is possible.

This quotation is popular, but I have only been able to find it on websites and in recent books and periodicals. Are these the genuine words of the modernist master?

Quote Investigator: In 1989 the prominent Spanish writer Camilo Jose Cela told a newspaper reporter that the remark above was spoken to him by Pablo Picasso. Yet, the conversation between Cela and Picasso must have occurred many years before because the famous painter died in 1973. A detailed citation is presented further below.

A similar statement was made by Picasso in 1932 as reported in the newspaper “ABC” based in Madrid, Spain. The news story was obtained via telephone while Picasso was in Paris. The artist emphasized the pivotal importance of solitude to his work. But his description suggested that solitude was a psychological state that he was able to enter without the knowledge of others. Below was the original Spanish text (English is further below): 1

No se puede hacer nada sin la soledad. Me he creado una soledad que nadie sospecha. Pero el reloj dificulta hoy la soledad. ¿Ha visto usted algún santo con reloj?

Picasso’s thoughts were translated and published many years later in 1960 in “The New York Times”. The text consisted of a single paragraph attributed to Picasso in an article section titled “Ideas and Men”; no source for the words was specified: 2

Nothing can be accomplished without solitude. I have made a kind of solitude for myself which nobody is aware of. Today it’s very difficult to be alone because we have watches. Have you ever seen a saint wearing a watch?—PABLO PICASSO

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Notes:

  1. 1932 June 15, ABC Diario Ilustrado (Madrid), Informaciones y noticias del extranjero: ABC en Paris, (Telephone conversation with Pablo Picasso), Start Page 35, Quote Page 36, Madrid. (Online archive of ABC at hemeroteca.abc.es; accessed December 11, 2015) link
  2. 1960 July 17, New York Times, Opinion of the Week: At Home and Abroad: Ideas and Men, Quote Page E9, Column 6, New York. (ProQuest)

Never Permit a Dichotomy to Rule Your Life

Pablo Picasso? Edward L. Bernays?

dichotomy09Dear Quote Investigator: Achieving happiness is often challenging. Some people intensely dislike their work life and attempt to obtain joy elsewhere. There is a quotation that cautions against allowing this type of dichotomy to rule one’s life, and this valuable guidance has been attributed to the famous painter Pablo Picasso, but I have never seen a good citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This advice about avoiding a pernicious dichotomy was formulated by Edward L. Bernays who was an important pioneer in the controversial disciplines of public relations, advertising, and propaganda.

Bernays contributed a short untitled essay to a 1986 book called “Are You Happy?: Some Answers to the Most Important Question in Your Life” compiled by Dennis Wholey. Bernays suggested that colleges should offer a course called “Personal Happiness”, and he emphasized the value of psychological tests to help the job selection process. Bernays also gave the following warning. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

I say, “Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.”

QI has found no substantive evidence that Pablo Picasso ever made a matching remark. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1986, Are You Happy?: Some Answers to the Most Important Question in Your Life, Compiled by Dennis Wholey, Section: Edward L. Bernays, Start Page 94, Quote Page 94, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)

Every Child Is an Artist. The Problem Is How to Remain an Artist Once He or She Grows Up

John Lennon? Pablo Picasso? Carleton Noyes? Percy Mackaye? Dudley Crafts Watson? Agnes Snyder? Ricky Gervais? Anonymous?

drawing09Dear Quote Investigator: When a child is supplied with paint, clay, paper, and scissors he or she will experiment and construct images and figures. The artistic impulse is strong in the early years of life, but sadly it is often attenuated as a child matures. I believe that the prominent painter Pablo Picasso and the notable musician John Lennon both made statements on this theme. Are you familiar with these quotations?

Quote Investigator: John Lennon did mention children and art during an interview in 1969. Lennon was highly critical of many aspects of society during the colloquy, and he was asked about his alternative ideas for governance. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Just the idea that the individual is capable of looking after himself, that we don’t need centralized government, that we don’t need father-figures and leaders, that every child is an artist until he’s told he’s not an artist, that every person is great until some demagogue makes him less great.

Pablo Picasso died in April 1973, and a few years later in October 1976 a quotation about childhood and art was attributed to him in the pages of “Time” magazine: 2

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
—Picasso

This citation was the earliest linkage to Picasso known to QI; however, the statement was listed without a source or context. QI does not know where the “Time” magazine writer found the quotation. Perhaps Picasso spoke or wrote it in French or Spanish originally.

The thesis of a universal though evanescent artistic temperament in childhood has been propounded for more than one hundred years. For example, in 1907 the art critic Carleton Noyes published “The Gate of Appreciation” which contained the following passage: 3

The child is the first artist. Out of the material around him he creates a world of his own. The prototypes of the forms which he devises exist in life, but it is the thing which he himself makes that interests him, not its original in nature. His play is his expression.

But Noyes argued that the artistic instinct was usually lost as the child grew older:

Imagination surrenders to the intellect; emotion gives place to knowledge.
Gradually the material world shuts in about us until it becomes for us a hard, inert thing, and no longer a living, changing presence, instinct with infinite possibilities of experience and feeling.

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Notes:

  1. 1976, John Lennon: One Day at a Time: A Personal Biography of the Seventies by Anthony Fawcett, Chapter: The Peace Politician, Start Page 45, Quote Page 55, Published by Grove Press, New York. (Fawcett stated that the quotation was spoken during an interview given by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in an office at Apple Records in 1969)(Verified with scans)
  2. Date: October 4, 1976, Periodical: Time, Article: Modern Living: Ozmosis in Central Park, Note: The quotation appears as an epigraph at the beginning of the article. (Online archive of Time magazine)
  3. 1907, The Gate of Appreciation: Studies in the Relation of Art to Life by Carleton Noyes, Quote Page 29, Published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link

The Purpose of Life Is to Discover Your Gift. The Meaning of Life Is to Give Your Gift Away

William Shakespeare? Pablo Picasso? David Viscott? Joy Golliver? Emilio Santini? Anonymous?

gift07Dear Quote Investigator: A popular adage presents a fascinating answer to a perennial philosophical question about the significance of life:

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

This statement is often attributed to the famed playwright William Shakespeare or the influential painter Pablo Picasso on social networks like Facebook and Pinterest. I know that means absolutely nothing about who really said it. Would you please trace this quotation?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence linking this expression to William Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso. The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a 1993 book by the radio personality David S. Viscott. This citation is detailed further below.

An interesting thematically related statement was included in an 1843 essay titled “Gifts” by the prominent lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson who argued that a gift is only worthwhile if it is integrally related to the gift-giver 1

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a stone; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing.

In 1993 the volume “Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations” by David Viscott was published. The author was a psychiatrist who hosted a pioneering radio talk show in the 1980s and 1990s during which he provided counseling to callers. Viscott’s statement was composed of three parts instead of two: 2

The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

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Notes:

  1. 1843 July, The Dial, Volume IV, Number I, Gifts (Essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson), Start Page 93, Quote Page 93, Column 1, Published by James Munroe and Company, Boston, Massachusetts. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1993, Finding Your Strength in Difficult Times: A Book of Meditations by David S. Viscott, Life, Quote Page 87, Contemporary Books of Chicago, Illinois. (Verified with scans)