Pablo Picasso (public domain photo)
I don’t think Picasso was a genius of any sort except maybe marketing. I heard a man on TV saying Picasso could paint representational art if he chose. But what little of his early work in representation form I’ve seen was mediocre at best. He certainly was not going to get famous painting that way.
Are his works masterpieces? What is the definition of a masterpiece? For me, if a painting is great, it is great no matter who painted it. I would like to see an experiment centered around Picasso’s work.
1. Take one of Picasso’s paintings and change the signature to “Sever Tisthammer”, a Wisconsin dairy farmer. Do you think you would hear, “Oh, isn’t this a great painting. He is a genius.”?
2. Take a scribble by a 5 year old and have Picasso sign and claim it.
His work sucks to put it bluntly.
Now, I’m not against abstract art. There is no reason a painting has to be about something. It can be about paint, color, form, etc. Some of it is beautiful, has wide emotional appeal, and although it may look simple, can indeed be very difficult to create, requiring unique individual skills. I have yet to see a work of Picasso that had any appeal beyond the fact that the creator had somehow fallen into celebrityhood.
Bill: If we were talking about some old painter you didn’t like—Modigliani maybe—this wouldn’t matter. You just skip him. But Picasso is too important for you to turn away from. You simply must give his work more thought. It won’t do to huff and join the crowd of common sense folks that say they aren’t dumb and won’t be fooled.
I don’t know what the man on TV said or the examples of early work you’ve seen. In a Barcelona museum there are drawings Picasso made when he was 12 or 13 that will convince you he could do competent representational work, as his father wanted. (In a strict sense, he always did representational work. He drew and painted things and people, he didn’t “go abstract”.) And what about those first two paintings: the First Communion and Science and Charity?
Do you know what happened when he showed them to his buddies at the 4 Cats Café? They turned up their noses just as you turn up yours at the painting in my post. They laughed him to shame. “That kind of art is dead,” they told him. “Don’t you see that the world doesn’t need another damn picture of happy middle-class customs or restful woods, much less one about your personal struggles or undeception as you grow up? And are you going to be someone’s political propaganda?”
Those buddies changed the direction of Picasso’s drawing. Few have ever drawn as well, as spontaneously. When he became convinced that “saying something” was silly or worn-out he gave his prodigious talent an outlet in endless graphic experiments.
I don’t believe you that you have never seen a good one. For my post I had to look around a long time to find a “bad” one as an illustration. One after another of those on the Net were good—each in a different way, of course, which is what creation is all about.
I used to drag my feet on the way to a Picasso exhibition. I supposed I would see a lot of predictable cock-eyed ladies and mis-assembled puzzle-piece people, all in gray or in simple unimaginative colors. But then I was always wrong. Each of the works was novel, ingeniously constructed, sometimes funny, and the colors were better and more subtle than I had expected. I always walked away telling myself ”The guy really IS somebody.” Though it is also true that I found most of the works hard to remember.
I’m sure you could tell the difference between a Picasso and the five-year-old’s scribble. Picasso’s work is the height of sophisticated draftsmanship and design. The kid’s scribble may be cute or psychologically revealing or suggestive, but it is CLUMSY. Picasso couldn’t be clumsy even blindfolded and drunk.
Also, Bill, you shouldn’t blame Picasso for the way his work was commercialized. He took advantage of that—sure. Who wouldn’t? Chagall did too and Dalí and the other twentieth century greats. Picasso had lived through some very miserable years in Barcelona and Paris, where he had to sell paintings for food. It is proof of the genius of those men that they went right on painting, in spite of the easy money and the opportunity to live it up.