Revealing Picasso

Picasso famously said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” A lifelong fan of his work, in 2019 I devoured books and movies to learn more about Picasso’s life. Check out my top 3 recommendations to help you develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of Picasso’s art and “wash the dust off your soul.”

Why Picasso?

Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. With such an impressive resume, he is the topic of many books, movies, and TV shows.  I highly recommend these:

Top Recommendation: The Mystery of Picasso

I do not understand why I have never heard of or seen this movie. Every art teacher in the world should show this movie to their classes and every Picasso exhibit and museum should have this in their gift shop! This 75 minute documentary shows Picasso create 20 artworks. Unless you have watched the film, you’ve never seen the art that Picasso creates because they were all intentionally destroyed upon the conclusion of filming. The film captivated me from the very first moment of the film until the very last. I wanted to rewatch it the second it ended. Sometimes I buy movies and wonder if I will ever watch them a second time — question whether purchasing it was the right decision — that is not the case with this film. It might be the only movie I own worth keeping.

This entirely new kind of art documentary captures the moment and the mystery of creativity. For the film, the master created 20 artworks, ranging from playful black-and-white sketches to widescreen color paintings. Using inks that bled through the paper, Picasso rapidly created fanciful drawings that Clouzot was able to film from the reverse side, capturing their creation in real time. When the artist decided to paint in oils, the filmmaker switched to color film and employed the magic of stop-motion animation.  Unavailable for more than a decade, “The Mystery of Picasso” is exhilarating, mesmerizing, and unforgettable. In 1984, the French government declared the film a national treasure.

Second Recommendation: Life With Picasso

After viewing the National Geographic Genius series on Picasso (see below), I became interested in Francoise Gilot.  She wrote her firsthand account of life with Picasso, having his children, his association with other prominent artists, political figures, and his philosophy on art and living. Utterly fascinating,  authentic, and genuine, this book peeks behind the curtain of the daily life of Picasso.  Despite their relationship difficulties, she still writes about Picasso in a respectful and warmly entertaining way. Understanding him as a womanizer adds depth and meaning to his paintings; hence, I recommend this book. You’ll definitely look at his work in a new light and perchance discover a new artist in the process, Gilot.

Françoise Gilot’s candid memoir remains the most revealing portrait of Picasso written. It gives fascinating insight into the intense and creative life shared by two modern artists. She was in her early twenties when she met the sixty-one-year-old Pablo Picasso in 1943.  Her introduction to Picasso led to a friendship, a love affair, and a relationship of ten years.  In addition to acting as his muse, Gilot gave birth to Picasso’s two children, Paloma and Claude.  She was also very much her own woman, determined to make herself into the remarkable painter she did indeed become.

Life with Picasso is an indispensable record of his thinking about art, as well as an often very funny account of his relationships with other artists and with dealers and hangers-on.  It is also about Françoise Gilot, a young woman of enormous talent and exacting intelligence figuring out who she wants to be.

Third Recommendation: GENIUS:PICASSO

Last Spring, National Geographic released their second Genius series on Picasso.  Antonio Banderas played the older Picasso wonderfully. He earned a nomination for best lead actor in a series at the Emmys, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes. The entire series was riveting to me. It starts with Picasso’s birth and then the series continues to dramatize his life for 10 episodes. I loved the acting, sets, costumes, and most of all the story-telling.  If you missed the series, you can stream it (for a fee), or you can buy the DVD (see below).

GENIUS: PICASSO is the second season of National Geographic’s first fully scripted drama series. Diving into the life and loves of the brilliant Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (Antonio Banderas), this season showcases Picasso’s significant and wide-ranging contribution to modern art. Exploring the Spanish expatriate’s devotion to his craft, the series also reveals Picasso’s relationships with other well-known personalities of the time, including Coco Chanel, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall and Jean Cocteau. From the younger Picasso (Alex Rich) who rejects academic study and joins a circle of young, struggling bohemian artists and writers in early 20th century Spain and France, to the artist’s tumultuous marriages, passionate affairs and ever-shifting political and personal alliances, GENIUS: PICASSO uncovers what sparked Picasso’s creative drive and pushed his artistic boundaries leading to his worldwide renown as a genius.

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10 Comments. Leave new

  • […] I’m a huge Picasso fan. Check out my recent post on Picasso. […]

    Reply
  • Thank you for all that information! How fascinating to learn more about him. I now want to take some time to read even more.

    Reply
    • Watching him paint in real time is amazing, and reading his life story is like a great soap opera. He’s not all-around admirable, but he’s definitely interesting!

      Reply
  • I love Picasso so much – there is a wonderful Picasso museum in Paris – but if you can’t get to Paris, these are great suggestions on learning more about him!

    Reply
    • I went to a Picasso museum in Barcelona that I loved, but I didn’t go to the one in Paris. Hopefully someday. Also, I was in Antibe and didn’t know of his museum there until I read the book by Gilot. It would mean so much more to me to see it now after having read that book, though, so maybe it’s better I didn’t run across it without the context.

      Reply
  • I am a big fan of Picasso. I have seen both Picasso movies, which I find fascinating. I actually saw one as part of an Art Class that I was taking. I used to live in Wisconsin, and they have a couple of real Picasso paintings at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art, which I used to go to as often as I possibly could. I now live in a dinky little town with a far access to an Art Museum of quality.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad an art class showed the film 🙂 No one I’ve talked to has heard of the Mystery of Picasso much less seen it.

      I visited the Chicago Art Institute Museum and saw some amazing works. Next time I’m in the city, I’ll check out the Chicago MoMA. Thanks for the tip.

      Reply
  • Love Picasso. Some of my favorite moments is from the Prado. I became intrigued with the number of works as well as his sketchbooks and the offerings in the Gift shop. Hope I return one day.

    Reply
  • […] and recreate it four different ways. See what you learn. Here’s an example I did. I used a Picasso line drawing of Francoise Gilot and then I created these four different pages in my art journal […]

    Reply
  • […] R. Guggenheim Museum: The works of Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Jeff Koons, and Franz Marc are just some of the 625 artists whose work are a part […]

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