One Starts To Get Young at the Age of 60 and Then It’s Too Late

Pablo Picasso? Jean Cocteau? Derek Prouse?

Dear Quote Investigator: The proficiency, creativity, and potency of an artist can grow for decades. Yet, painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso apparently said the following about his change in mentality as he became older. Here are two versions:

  • One starts to get young at 60 and then it is too late.
  • One starts to get young at the age of sixty, and then it’s too late.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: Derek Prouse interviewed the prominent French literary figure and film maker Jean Cocteau shortly before the artist died, and the conversation appeared in “The Sunday Times” of London in October 1963. Cocteau repeated a remark he had heard recently from Pablo Picasso. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

“Of course, the artist’s life has always been a struggle. Picasso said to me the other day: ‘One starts to get young at the age of 60—and then it’s too late.’ Only then does one start to feel free; only then has one learned to strip oneself down to one’s essential creative simplicity.”

Thus, the evidence for this quotation is indirect. Cocteau reported the words he ascribed to Picasso during an interview published in “The Sunday Times”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1985 “The Oxford Book of Ages” compiled by Anthony and Sally Sampson included the quotation with an attribution to Picasso: 2

One starts to get young at the age of sixty, and then it’s too late.
PICASSO

In 1987 “The Wit and Wisdom of the 20th Century” compiled by Frank S. Pepper printed an entry listing the quotation together with an informative description of its provenance: 3

One starts to get young at the age of sixty and then it is too late.
Pablo Picasso to Jean Cocteau. Quoted Derek Prouse, Sunday Times 20 Oct 1963

In 2000 the “Encarta Book of Quotations” included the quotation with an ascription to Picasso. 4

In conclusion, there is substantive evidence that Pablo Picasso did deliver this quotation; however, the earliest information is not direct. Jean Cocteau relayed the quotation from Picasso during an interview in 1963.

(Great thanks to Daniel Gackle whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1963 October 27, The Boston Sunday Globe, Cocteau’s Last Observations: One Is Getting Young At 60 … It’s Too Late by Derek Prouse, Quote Page 6A, Column 1 and 2, Boston, Massachusetts. (The interview originally appeared in “The Sunday Times” of London on October 20, 1963) (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1985, The Oxford Book of Ages, Chosen by Anthony and Sally Sampson, Chapter 60, Quote Page 118, Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1987, The Wit and Wisdom of the 20th Century: A Dictionary of Quotations, Compiled by Frank S. Pepper, Topic: Old Age, Quote Page 268, Peter Bedrick Books, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)
  4. 2000, Encarta Book of Quotations, Edited by Bill Swainson, Entry: Pablo Picasso, Quote Page 739, St. Martin’s Press, New York. (Verified with scans)