The ultimate curiosity

Dear Artist, Having spent the afternoon in the Picasso show at the Seattle Art Museum, I’m laptopping you from a quiet café near First and Spring. Right now I’m digesting those Picassos along with a nice set of Samish Bay oysters.

“The Shadow” 1953
oil and charcoal painting
51 x 38 inches
The departure of a lovely woman,
a child’s toy, sadness.

The museum was a hefty bash. For many, seemingly exposed to his originals for the first time, it was puzzling and curious — the prodigious output, the variety of styles, the relentless change, the parade of wives, mistresses, kids. “If you want my biography, look at my art,” said Picasso. People were looking closely, glued to their audios. The collection, borrowed from the currently renovating Musee National Picasso in Paris, represents the very hinges of Twentieth Century art. From the first tentative art school efforts to the mature cubist abstracts — and all the periods in between — it’s a feast. Behind every work there’s a story. In room 5 we see an unresolved return to realistic painting — a delicate portrait canvas of his first wife Olga and another one of their son Paulo. “A deliberate technique,” we’re told by the intellectual on the audio, “to leave areas unfinished to remind us that we are looking at a painting — an act controlled by the artist.” One might also wonder if he abandoned these paintings because he realized he was outflanked in this department by others. It’s the story of a life with serial and overlapping women. Beautiful in their distortion, classical, submissive, combative, complacent, unreachable.

“The Suppliant” 1937
gouache painting, 9 x 7 inches
Graphic strength and the fearful wisdom of Guernica. Full angst.

We come to the reclining nudes, active demoiselles and energetic cubistic torsos — club-footed, sausage-fingered women seen from front and side at the same time. The real thing beats the picture books. You feel his mind, his cover-ups, his impatience, his adulation, his angst, his fetishes. Everywhere is ego, ambiguity, stabbing energy and a flamboyant creativity. In the last room, lettered discreetly across the wall: “God is only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He just goes on trying other things.”

“The Kiss” 1925
oil painting
51 x 38 inches
Full-on sensual and sexual energy together with threatening, playful elements.

Best regards, Robert PS: “The rich and the idlers seek the new, the extraordinary, the extravagant and the scandalous. I have contented these people with all the many bizarre things that come into my head. The less they understand, the more they admire it. By amusing myself with all these games, all this nonsense, all these picture puzzles, I became famous. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his time.” (Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973) Esoterica: Then there’s the archiving — signing, dating with Roman numerals. It’s as if he knew even at an early age he was precious and important. I was taking notes in my little black book when a heavy-set guard pushed up to me. “No ball-point pens in the museum,” he said, gruffly. “So here’s a pencil,” he added. Ambiguous, like Picasso himself, I thought. The guard had a pocket full of stubby pencils to give to the ignorant carriers of dangerous implements.   Pablo Picasso

“Celestina (The Woman with one Eye)”
1904 oil painting
29 x 23 inches
An early, sensitive portrait. Already, damaged condition attracts.


“Fernande in a White Mantilla” 1906
charcoal on paper
24 x 18 inches
Tentative and sparse. A man finding his way.


“Seated nude, study”
1906 oil painting
48 x 37 inches
Rough and energetic, we see the face/mask of the artist himself.


“Three Figures beneath a Tree”
1907 oil painting
39 x 39 inches
The African mask cajoled into an interactive pattern.


“Man with a Mandolin”
1911 oil painting
64 x 28 inches
Pure cubist extraction and we get to look for the mandolin.


“The Bathers”
1918 oil painting
11 x 9 inches
Delicate, caring, attentive rendering. I used to think this was a big one.


“Olga in an Armchair”
1918 oil painting, 51 x 35 inches
Done from a photo (also in the show) Classic, sensitive and tight.


“Paulo as Harlequin”
1924 oil painting, 51 x 38 inches
Their child as clown; nevertheless a sensitive and placid expression.

                      Picasso revealed by Bill Skuce, Sooke, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Bill Skuce

In the 1980’s a neighbour loaned me a book she insisted I read, Picasso: Creator and Destroyer. The author, a lawyer named Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, had seen in Paris a huge retrospective of Picasso’s work and was so moved by the experience that she began her research for the book, contacting everyone she could who had known Picasso. Her account was riveting, her insight penetrating, her evaluation of his character ruthless, even brutal at times. Reading it as authentic, my entire attitude toward Picasso was irrevocably changed. The author had liberated me, cleared away the mists and colours of the Picasso aura, drew back the curtain, so to speak, and allowed me to see Picasso in a fresh and revealing light and to understand his work more in the context of his own life, character and times rather than solely as a product of the innovative genius many had claimed him to be. There is 1 comment for Picasso revealed by Bill Skuce
From: Marie — Dec 07, 2010

I want to know more about this painting. Oil or acrylic? Did you use a grisalle? Live model or photo? BTW, I really LIKE it!!

  Unfinished or outflanked? by Joe Faith, PA, USA   I laughed out loud when I read the passage, “A deliberate technique,” we’re told by the intellectual on the audio, “to leave areas unfinished to remind us that we are looking at a painting — an act controlled by the artist.” One might also wonder if he abandoned these paintings because he realized he was outflanked in this department by others. The mastery of the artist allows both your and the intellectual’s justifications for leaving an area “unfinished.” Both views are valid; drawn out from the core of the individual viewer by Picasso whether overtly intentional or subconsciously.   No appreciation of Picasso by Crystal Brown   I am truly disappointed to hear you speak of Picasso with such reverent regard. As in your quote, even he did not think so. A hundred years from now he will be regarded as one who knew how to make money. I saw his work in the NY MOMA at the Matisse/Picasso show and found it hugely disappointing. Paint falling off canvas, hurried expressions of ego to collect fees. Matisse was far more genuine, in spite of lacking the talent (my opinion, of course). My opinions were formed in part because of the simultaneous show at the Met, which was Manet/Velasquez. What a huge difference in sincerity and talent and ability. There was no comparison. We could argue over originality or modernity (at least as to Manet, who was the least of the show), but not as to any other quality. And the Spanish masters, WOW. My reverence is there, among other places and with other masters, but not Picasso. There are 3 comments for No appreciation of Picasso by Crystal Brown
From: Sue — Dec 07, 2010

try to keep an open mind…there are ideas there in his work that have launched many successful careers in art.

From: virginia Wieringa — Dec 07, 2010

I agree, Sue.

From: Anna — Dec 10, 2010

Yes Sue, of course but doesn’t that say more about the art buyers, critics and historians than it does about Picasso’s worthiness of his standing in art history. Oh and Crystal, it’s nice to see you have the courage to say what many others think.

  Eclectic styles not safe in today’s market by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

original painting
by Rick Rotante

I used to believe Picasso was a genius and that may be so, but in promotion more than art. No doubt, he had great facility to achieve “the new.” True, he could paint. But I’ve come to see he might have been one of many in an avant guard period of experimentation who was just run of the mill. Many others were better painters, more dexterous, but none had his genius for flamboyance and novelty, save for maybe Salvador Dali. I try and put his work into perspective and see why everyone was so enamored of his work. The answer I come up with today is they couldn’t pin him down. He, himself says the more confusing his work, the better they liked it. He could spit on the ground and someone would capitalize on it — his own words. Today being eclectic in style puts galleries and buyers off. They want a “style” that is guaranteed will be there for awhile to safeguard their expensive purchases. If an artist today varies content and style, the public gets confused. It’s like the latest iPod or camera device. Good today but obsolete tomorrow. Maybe Picasso was the forerunner of the world we now find ourselves. Newer, faster, better. Out with the old. There are 3 comments for Eclectic styles not safe in today’s market by Rick Rotante
From: Cindy — Dec 07, 2010

I love your boats.

From: Peter V. — Dec 07, 2010

I’ve read you comments and agree with you often. I also like the work you’ve been showing. Keep up the good work. (Boats are nice)

From: anonymous — Dec 07, 2010

I think there will always be novelty. Picasso was a novelty. But in the end people want real art. Art that move them to more than anger and cofusion and novelty.

  In the eye of the beholder by John Ferrie, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

acrylic painting, 22 x 30 inches
by John Ferrie

I saw the Picasso show at the SAM two weeks ago. I dragged my boyfriend, who really didn’t want to go. I thought it was the most interesting journey. The collection was unreal and the curation was exemplary. The show took on many facets of the man’s magnificent life all the while exploring his endless loves. I was astounded to see over 40 major works as well as sculptures and some really big paintings. But, for me, the most important piece was La Minotauro Machie, the small etching in either room 4 or 5. This etching is considered to be one of Picasso’s best works, best etchings and the pre-curser to the famed Guernica painting. We were there for several hours as it was early afternoon when we arrived and dark by the time we left. The only difference from our trip was we went off and had Crab Sandwiches and the best Clam Chowder I have ever tasted. It was truly a wonderful day. There are 2 comments for In the eye of the beholder by John Ferrie
From: Judy Silver — Dec 07, 2010

John, this is one of my favorite paintings of yours. Wonderful!

From: John Ferrie — Dec 07, 2010

Hey Judy, it is for sale! Email me at

  The ultimate, magnificent spoiled brat by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Port Moody, BC, Canada  

“Gabriola Beach”
acrylic painting, 30 x 40 inches
by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I also thought that the commentary on the audio was only worth the biographical details — the opinions why Picasso did something often didn’t make sense. The explanation of unfinished works caught my attention as well — I think that he just lost interest and moved onto the next thing. Both in Olga and Paolo, the designs and patterns on clothes are done with gusto and in an interesting way surround the flesh — when he was done with that, there just wasn’t anything else interesting to do in those paintings, the missing parts are what his ego dismissed. There are many pieces like that, where I think he worked on them until the feeling of exploration was lost. Some pieces held his attention all the way to the finish and presentation (like the sculpture of a group of figures that he positions just so), while for others he just put together a few shapes or lines and was satisfied with that. The strongest message that came across for me was that there was a man who wanted and enabled himself to do whatever he wanted — the ultimate, magnificent spoiled brat! A pair of dudes started talking to me at the exhibition and asked me why some of Picasso’s female figures have masculine bodies and strange shapes (do I look like I know something about art or did I look like those figures to them?). I think that Picasso was just playing with shapes and exploring what could be done with the female figure — something that he loved and never tired of (Sinisa fell in love with the portrait of Dora Maar, the one with red nails and yellow shadow on the face, apparently she was a woman from our home country). There are 2 comments for The ultimate, magnificent spoiled brat by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki
From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Dec 07, 2010

Nice painting, Tatjana!

From: Tatjana — Dec 07, 2010

Thanks Laurel, it’s amazing how this site connects with friends!

  Brilliant painter at an early age by Jacqui Douglas, Australia  

First Communion (left)
The Alter Boy (right)
oil paintings
by Pablo Picasso, 1896

Even though Picasso could be flippant at times regarding his experimental art he was on a path to inventing what no one else even had an inkling about. He was a true leader not a follower and in my humble opinion the greatest artists of the 20th century- maybe all time. But then I am biased. I have always loved how people can paint from their imagination so to be always pushing the idea of what art is to me is a very courageous act in deed. Not many can keep true to themselves in the midst of naysayers and ignorant uneducated so called “art critics.” Regarding your comments about his inadequacy I’ve sent along First Communion (1896), he painted this at the tender age of 15 years after only one year at the Academy of Art in Barcelona. Also The Alter Boy (1896). They speak for themselves. He could paint anything at this young age but knew he was meant to follow a journey of complete discovery and experimentation in a different direction away from paintings of this ilk. An interesting fact is that Picasso’s father Jose Ruiz Blasco (Ruiz), an artist and art professor, gave him a formal education in art starting from the age of 7. By 13, Ruiz vowed to give up painting as he felt that Pablo had surpassed him. There are 5 comments for Brilliant painter at an early age by Jacqui Douglas
From: Bernard Fierro — Dec 06, 2010

This of course is the most sensible letter to this point.

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 07, 2010

I’ve read about that anecdote as well. In time to come Picasso’s early works will always be revered whether his abstractions are reevaluated or not.

From: rena williams — Dec 07, 2010

thanks for this

From: David G — Dec 07, 2010

A favorite quote of Picasso’s “It took me 4 years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” The man was a rascal, a bastard, a seducer, and he ‘used up’ far more than his share of contemporary art ideas. (how many artists have been blocked when trying something too Picasso-esque?) I was thrilled to find and be photographed in Paris next to a painting he did on the day I was born. He was the s.o.b. uncle of all modern art …

From: Ricj Rotante — Dec 07, 2010

I find it interesting that Picasso spent his entire life trying to “paint like a child” while his childhood works don’t look anything like what he was attempting to achieve. All he had to do was look at his old 15 year old work and Viole! But he choose to extort his foolish patrons who paid millions for his folly. He was a genius not to give in to real art.

  Most admired artists by Ralph Papa, New York, NY, USA  

“Picasso and Picassos”
oil painting, 36 x 48 inches
by Ralph Papa

As an artist and art instructor, your latest letter on the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Museum hit the mark when you quoted Picasso saying, “If you want my biography, look at my art”. I encourage my students to first learn to see accurately, then to draw and paint accurately, and then to create visual works that reflect on who you are and what moves you. Three favorite artists of mine are Van Gogh, Hopper and Picasso. Their personalities and works are very different, but what they do have in common is feeling, emotion and some measure of autobiographical content. Each, in their works, I think, honestly and accurately reflects who they are. In my own paintings Picasso and Picassos, Van Gogh and Van Goghs and To Hopper from Papa, I tried in some way to link with these artists I most admire. There is 1 comment for Most admired artists by Ralph Papa
From: lyn — Dec 07, 2010

And “link” you did! The painting draws you in to search and smile… well done, quite an homage :)

  Artist censored by B.J. Adams, Washington, DC, USA  

“Bungy Attitude”
mixed media painting
by B.J. Adams

I wonder, but doubt that Picasso’s work was ever censored. Right now we are having another brouhaha concerning art work (actually a video) that was at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. This video has been yanked due to government intervention and has moved to a small gallery. This is reminiscent of the 1980’s when Robert Mapplethorpe’s show was canceled at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The WPA (Washington Project for the Arts) picked it up and received many reviews and had much free advertising and visitors as a result. The whole debacle cost the Corcoran, greatly in many ways, and the WPA had never had such crowds. The general public (beyond the art loving public) always seems to want to see anything with this kind of publicity. The small Transformer Gallery is now showing the NPG censored video in their store front window for all DC to see. This small gallery will probably gain immensely in advertising and patronage much as the WPA did in the late 80’s. Articles and letters to the editor are being carried in the Washington Post and I’m sure will leak into our local papers and magazines, as well, about having the government decided what is art and what is not. Actually they are deciding what is obscene and should not be seen by the public and at the same time they give the offending artwork great publicity. I don’t think these congressmen realize what a great amount of advertising they are giving art when they decide to censor anything. If keeping these ‘obscene’ artworks away from the general public is their goal, they accomplish just the opposite. The offending video is a short video (4 minutes at the NPG and 30 minutes in its entirety to be shown at the Transformer Gallery) is by David Wojnarowicz who died of an Aids-related illness in 1992. The excerpt was from a 1987 piece titled “A Fire In My Belly, made in honor of Peter Hujar, an artist colleague who died of aids complications in 1987. Many of us in the 80’s made art dedicated to censorship and I may have to dig out my old work as it probably is once again relevant. One of the artworks I created in the 80’s after the Mapplethorpe incident was called True Obscenity, created in a banner format. I listed everything I thought the government should define as an obscenity like, poverty, war, joblessness, hunger, disease, illiteracy, etc. There is 1 comment for Artist censored by B.J. Adams
From: Benjamin R Stockton — Feb 28, 2011

Note the lack of comments on this letter; I think it shows the standoffishness of people towards this subject. I have that too, but I could not resist commenting on it. I think the true obscenities are like the ones listed by Adams but, having met a lot of people living in adversity, I know the list of things that will not necessarily make you unhappy includes war, pestilence, illness, death of loved ones, destruction of your home, ignorance, lack of education (not the same things), persecution, loss of freedom, loss of a limb, loss of a sense, loss of speech, etc. Humans can be so robust at times, and I have seen people be happy in all these circumstances…

  Picasso and indigestion by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“Touch of Green”
pastel painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Paul deMarrais

As artists we are supposed to love Picasso, but I can’t make it happen. I like his rose period and his blue period with the poetic colors, acrobats and circus performers, but all the work that made him famous that I am supposed to love I find repellent and ugly. I get no feelings from cubism with its funky distortions and dirty dark colors. It’s repetitive as well when you see miles and miles of it. Added to this lack of connection with Picasso the artist is my lack of connection with Picasso the woman hating jerk, egomaniac and narcissist. The whole Picasso thing is like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and I expect it is for many who view his work. It’s like the chef saying to you “eat this lousy meal, you’ll love it!” The man had wondrous drawing skills, even as a teenager. He was Mozart with a pencil, instead of a violin. I am supposed to cheer that he chose to be innovative and to create this huge body of now famous work that made him a multimillionaire a few times over. Picasso is a precursor of Warhol, another famous artist I am supposed to love. I like your image of eating those oysters while digesting the Picasso show. The oysters would go down smoothly, but for Picasso’s paintings I am reaching for the antacid tablets. There are 2 comments for Picasso and indigestion by Paul deMarrais
From: Veronica Stensby — Dec 07, 2010

I also have trouble “digesting” Picasso and can’t say that it is a “love affair”. For me, Picasso is a great teacher with an unlimited capacity for ideas and how to develop them in art form. Form and Gesture are his strengths, not color so much. But I study him for his thinking as well as looking, how he “copied” the Masters in his own way. Just ook at his lithographs and linocuts. The Metropolitan Museum in New York had an amazing retrospective from their own collection. I look forward to seeing the Seattle show in Los Angeles. Think of Picasso as a teacher who deserves another look.

From: Anonymous — Dec 07, 2010

I love the abstraction of your pastel. Very beautiful. I only began to find Picasso appealing after seeing the big Matisse/Picasso exhibit (an event that had the opposite effect on one of the other commentators). Perhaps it was the juxtaposition with Matisse, an artist I’ve always loved, but I found the Picasso’s in the exhibit to be strong, thought-provoking and at times, very very beautiful.

  Teaching Cubism by Norman Ridenour, Prague, Czech Republic  

“Household totem with head”
wood sculpture
by Norman Ridenour

I am just now finishing a visual arts course for business students and to keep it manageable most of it was 1815, Romanticism, to early Cubism using The Shock of the New as text. Most of the students had limited exposure to western traditions (Kazakh, Albanian, Uzbek plus two Czechs). Impressionism was strange but they GOT Picasso/Braque and the African link. Picasso is raw meat, feeling barely covered by style. I had Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring playing as they walked in one day-Cubism in sound. I had fed them beforehand the Gothic handling of perspective, the table top problem and they were able to build a link to Cubist still life. I need to find material on south Asian art to build more ;inks for them but it nearly all in Russian and that is not my list of five languages. The real eye opener of the gallery tour was, Seurat worked in Pixels. It is a long road from my doctorate work in The Spanish Civil War to Art History in Prague. Thanks for your work. You will never know how many of your insights will end up in south Asia. Picasso I get here but I envy you the oysters.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The ultimate curiosity

From: Jackie Knott — Dec 03, 2010

Ah, Picasso. Some people “get” him, many hate him, and quite a few walk away in bewilderment. Indeed, his work must be experienced first hand and not be judged by an art book.

I dearly love his early works. There is a profound sensitivity in his portraits I find humbling. Those are what I personally study and respond to. With great command of style at such an early age abstraction seems a progressive step this artist would have taken. I study those later compositions because they are so complex. Picasso understood marketing like no other. He was as much a P. T. Barnum showman as an artist. He exploited every conceivable idea related to him. He understood persona, shock value, and the eliteness of the art market. The thing that annoys me about Picasso is art never knew when he was pulling their leg or not. He would just as soon do a caricature for fun as an abstraction and let us figure out which was the serious work. And many we still don’t know. The one that makes me cringe in acknowledgement of his genius is Guernica. Such a powerful rendition of the horror of war could never have been presented in any other style.
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin TX — Dec 03, 2010

If you can’t have a ball point pen, how are you going to stop a terrorist? A golf pencil won’t work. Here is how to run a modern museum: Turn down the lights so no one can see the work, plug everyone into audio zombies (words win, art loses), empower guards to ruin your experience, etc. What next? Full body scanners?

From: Gary McCallum — Dec 03, 2010

Be truthful Robert, Picasso’s work is so bad, so amateur. In the big picture he will be known as a “personality.” Unfortunately, many imitated him along the way in the hopes that they too could become rich and famous. Some did.

From: R. C. Sward — Dec 03, 2010

There are those who “lunch” at these museum events. Picasso called them “idlers.”

From: Edna V.Hildebrandt-Toronto,Ontario — Dec 03, 2010

Picasso was no doubt a prolific painter and many considered him a genius and a giant in the art world. Perhaps his work is a parody of those people mostly his lady friends he painted. I think that those paintings of his wives and mistresses are very disrespectful to his subjects .If his works are biographical it is a form degradation to women. Perhaps it was the norm of those times, he portrayed himself as the ultimate “macho ” man who has the license to disrespect people. Give me an artist who is mindful of the dignity of his subjects to portray them as they really are truthfully not mock them.That is indeed a true genius in art.

From: Richard Smith — Dec 03, 2010

I think one thing we can learn from senor Picasso, is do it your way. He did it his way, monochrome paintings, views from all angles, sticking pieces of paper and cardboard to canvas, as he said “all the bizarre things in my head”. Strange indeed for the time, but now pretty commonplace. But he did it his way and people have flocked to see his work. Now, maybe if you build it they will come, but it’s no guarantee, do it your way and maybe your work might wind up in the local thrift store but by stepping away from the conventional crowd and “doing it your way” I think you have a better chance of being appreciated as a creative artist, as opposed to just another “kittens in a basket” type painter.

And if you ever get the chance, watch the movie, “Surviving Picasso” with Anthony Hopkins. Picasso may of been one of the greatest artists of the 20th century but his personality sure needed work.
From: Lyn — Dec 03, 2010

Picasso was Picasso, nothing more-nothing less. Everyone knows his little “cinematic”story, but that is not nearly impressive as the way he marketed his art… that was impressive.

From: Francisco LaTallenda — Dec 03, 2010

The hype around Picasso was eventually greater than his ability, as great as that was. This sort of thing is (and has been for a long time) most obvious in the “pop” culture, and, thankfully, most transient. But it still occurs in the art world as well. The darlings of a decade, are all but forgotten in another. Some fans and collectors like to think of their languishing favorites as “neglected,” but that’s not it at all. Previous media faves David Salle and Robert Longo are now name unknown to art students, even those who hunker down in the library with Art News and the like. They haven’t disappeared, and they still produce and command interesting prices, but they’ve peaked. Picasso seems not to have peaked in his lifetime– but he know exactly what was going on. Take a look at the phenomenon of the British artist Banksy for overt (and unsubtle) PR manipulation. In my opinion it’s vastly more skillful and interesting than the marks he makes. Julian Schnabel built a lauded career on paintings that, in my opinion, will eventually grace unfinished basements. Then, poof! He’s gone (or neglected, depending on your point of view) — except in Schnabels case, and fortunately for the audiences of cultural output, he tends to be a better film maker. Yeah, yeah, I know there’s a lot of taste involved, but once you get the media cooking and the “adventurous” (profligate?) collectors (like Saatchi) messing with the stew, it’s sometimes difficult to know the difference between being good and being famous. (For which we all need to have some trust in our internal compasses.) I don’t even want to talk about Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin.

From: Francisco LaTallenda — Dec 03, 2010

I agree with Jackie Knott’s comment (above) about Guernica, by the way. Even if he had never painted anything else….

From: Joan Thompson — Dec 03, 2010

You didn’t mention a corresponding exhibit of Picasso prints at Davidson Galleries in downtown Seattle. A stunning display of his dead-on extemporaneous line expression!

From: Kim Rushing — Dec 03, 2010

It would’ve been cool to see you amongst the Picassos at SAM Picasso’s comment on art and entertainment was most fascinating. In the music industry the use of shock has been helpful to pop stars’ publicity and bank accounts. Dresses made of Meat! Ice cream cone shaped brassieres! Naked photos of John and Yoko! When does the line between artist and clown get crossed and does it matter? Or is the genius just being a genius and not consciously being sensationalist?

From: Joela Nitzberg — Dec 03, 2010

Your wonderful description of the Picasso event was only surpassed by what Picasso said of himself! The oysters sounded good too!

From: Aleta Pippin — Dec 03, 2010

I’m glad that Picasso, for whatever reason, pushed the limits. He expanded the vision of what a painting could be.

From: Alan Soffer — Dec 03, 2010

I just thought this was a brilliant piece of writing today. You are always good, but today you were exceptional. Thank you for giving voice to our little niche in this world.

From: Mary Lou Reed — Dec 03, 2010

I visited the Picasso Museum in Paris and my favorite was a sculpture of a goat.

From: Roger Cummiskey — Dec 03, 2010

I read, I looked, I have seen many. I dreamed of the oysters!

From: Mary Kramer — Dec 03, 2010

There’s an old story about Picasso, true or not, I don’t know, but it sounds true. The master was painting and a fish was on a table nearby. An onlooker says to him, “That doesn’t look like a fish” Picasso replies, “I’m not painting a fish, I’m painting a painting.”

From: Erin Donley — Dec 03, 2010

You come up with the best titles for these emails! Hooks me every time… nice. I write a weekly email column for a local bookshop… I’ve learned a lot from your writing.

Thank you Robert!
From: Ursula Kirchner — Dec 03, 2010

Should you ever visit Stuttgart in Germany, you will find a wonderful collection of Picassos in “Staatsgalerie Stuttgart” and a beautiful collection of modern art. You will also find a bed in our apartment in the centre of the town..

From: Missy Cassidy — Dec 03, 2010

I am quite amused by the quote you chose from Picasso… and especially taken by how relevant it is in our current times…in many venues!

If no one has said it lately, thanks you again for sharing your thoughts each day. Your writing gives me moments of respite from a crazy world and sometimes, like today’s review of the museum, makes me feel like I am there too.
From: Rebecca Olander — Dec 03, 2010

How wonderful to be sitting there in a small quiet cafe in Seattle with the art, the people, the pleasure of just taking a breath of new and old. Thank you for sharing your beauty with me. I so much can feel it when I close my eyes and remember your words. It’s like I’m there. Thank you.

From: Banne Younker — Dec 03, 2010

You are a breath of fresh air. It is wonderful to connect with such an elegant and great thought provoking person. Keep up the good work.

From: Eugene Kovacs — Dec 03, 2010

Commenting on Picasso’s paintings: Picasso was a character in his time of using his ego by exploiting his sexual desires with his wife and his mistresses. This desire was based on fantasms with his sexual activities. Although he became a famous painter, in my opinion there is nothing exciting about his work. Maybe I am wrong…

From: M Frances Stilwell — Dec 03, 2010

He just doesn’t sound like a very likable person. However, I’ve seen some his paintings and liked his color combos a lot.

Corvallis, Oregon
From: Rolandt Bruhn — Dec 03, 2010

With the internet revolution, where all contenders (in theory) are getting more and more of an equal chance, is it possible that we may be witnessing the end of celebrated ego. For many who can see without hype, this will be sweet indeed.

Siegen, Germany
From: Virgil Elliott — Dec 04, 2010

The quote “The rich and the idlers..etc.” appears to be one of the various translations from the original Italian of a fictional interview by author Giovanni Papini. While it has been widely circulated as a quote from Picasso, it was actually fabricated by Papini.

I wish Picasso had been honest enough to make such a confession, but apparently he was not. Newspaper article by Iain Gale (The Independent, London) Thursday, 24 March 1994 Picasso was a fraud. He admitted so in an interview published in Italy in 1951 which was recently resurrected in this newspaper. ‘Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt were great painters,’ he said. ‘I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and exploited as best he could the imbecility, vanity and cupidity of his contemporaries.’ He confessed he had duped the public. The truth, though, alluded to in recent letters to the Independent, is that it was not the artist that was the fake, but the interview. Picasso’s ‘confession’ had been made to the Italian writer Giovanni Papini in an invented ‘interview’ for his journal L’Acerba; it was later included in a book published to mark his 70th birthday. It was through this compilation, Il Libro Nero, published in 1951, that the ‘confession’ became ammunition for a worldwide conspiracy against modern art. But a second glance at the book reveals that the Picasso ‘interview’ is merely one of a number of such spoofs, alongside Kafka, Freud and Stendhal. The Papini interview was a gift to Picasso’s detractors who, for the past 40 years, have used it to discredit both his achievement and modern art as a whole. John Richardson, Picasso’s current biographer, believes that the time has finally come for the ‘confession’ to be conclusively discredited. ‘This story should be squashed once and for all. It keeps rearing its ugly head,’ he says. ‘It still takes in serious people. Papini was no farceur. He was a serious Futurist.’ It was an earlier Picasso authority Pierre Daix who first exposed the true nature of the Papini ‘interview’ in his 1977 book La Vie de Peintre de Pablo Picasso. While the origins of the interview were an intellectual joke, their diffusion, Daix revealed, was politically motivated and was aided and abetted by Franco’s police. ‘This nonsensical mystification,’ wrote Daix, ‘was taken as gospel by various easily-gulled simpletons and so-called experts.’ Picasso’s ‘confession’ is now such a part of popular myth that it is frequently taken as genuine in otherwise learned journals. Last year, it appeared as such in the Spectator. Perhaps its most dangerous appearance, however, is in a key passage of Robertson Davies’ 1985 novel What’s Bred in the Bone: ‘Picasso made a statement: . . . ‘Mine is a bitter confession . . .but it has the merit of being sincere’.’ As Picasso would have recognised, a fiction presented as truth within a fiction becomes twice as real.
From: Thierry Talon — Dec 04, 2010

I have been liking the comments on the last few of Robert’s musings and superb suggestions. There have been no more graduates of the Academy of Hurt Feelings who ‘needed’ to ‘share’ their misery.

Instead constructive comments from all. That means that the Wailing Wall remains unfinished. I know only some saw the humor in this . . . but for the others there is always Kelly Cutrone’s book ‘If you want to cry, go outside’.
From: N. C. Whitcher — Dec 04, 2010

My husband and I visited the Musee National Picasso in its lovely setting of a once small hotel in Paris and we were thrilled. The spaces of display of the museum are open but intimate and the glazed walls just add to the mystique of the place. I was so pleased to view the many media on which Picasso worked and experimented. i too enjoy experimenting with a design element in a number of media and my visit to this museum truly validated my art efforts to experiment. All too often the contemporary artist’s work is accepted for a single focus, of a sameness ..and heaven help you if as a painter you should also sculpt. I can just hear the chatter from the gallery owners, now. Thank you, Picasso..I came away from your museum with a feeling of comfort.
From: Peter W. Brown — Dec 04, 2010

Both as an artist and role model, I am much more impressed by Paul Klee. Picasso was bombastic; Klee was reserved and quiet. Picasso had a few distinct styles; Klee seemed to have a new idea every day, and he was never constrained by a single style or artistic fad.

Comparing the two artists in terms of color, there is no contest. Klee was an absolute master of color. Picasso, not so much. Klee was a brilliant teacher; Picasso, didn’t bother. Klee was a collaborator; Picasso, a lone-wolf. Klee left us his writings, and I would recommend his, “Diaries,” to every painter. Picasso did not share many of his secrets, nor his internal dialogue. He was, after all, a star. Both artists did great things. One must admire that, but when I am in need of an inspiration, I do not pull out a book about Picasso. I go to my collection of books about, and written by Paul Klee. If I could have a talk with either Paul or Pablo, I would go with Paul. I think of Picasso as a roaring bull. Klee seems a wise owl.
From: Decker Walker — Dec 06, 2010

“No matter what insanities appear in art, when once they

find acceptance among the upper classes of our society a theory is quickly invented to explain and sanction them.” source: Leo Tolstoy, “What is Art?”
From: James P. Albert — Dec 06, 2010

To me, viewing Warhol in proximity back in his popular time, he was a drugged, mannered jerk who was milking slim skills to play the Picasso-described game fairly well. Now, the simplistic side of his works has caught on, and presto—major artist! Simplistic notions drive so much of the arts when they reach the popular venue. When I think about Warhol’s contemporaries whose works and statements on art were incomparably better, languishing in relative obscurity at this point, while AW moves into the gaga circle, I become disillusioned with the whole game.

From: Alma Bryce — Dec 06, 2010

If everybody thinks Picasso is so good, don’t you think that he is?

From: Tatjana — Dec 06, 2010

I think that he was brilliant in a way that is difficult to appreciate. You have to really put yourself in his shoes and look at his entire life’s work as well as at his brushstrokes. Consider the ability and courage required to do all that he has done.

From: Joanne Ferry — Dec 06, 2010

I actually like Picasso’s work, I like that it is honest, you can see he’s a womanizer and abusive, he shows the viewer his true self. He’s not concerned with how people see him. He was also a extremely prolific artist. I don’t think I would have liked him as a person but I respect his honesty, hardwork and talent.

From: tikiwheats — Dec 06, 2010

I don’t like all of Picasso’s art but I do think the man was a genius “in his time” esp. during the turn of the last century, his rose and blue periods personal to him, then working w/G. Braque creating cubism. They may be bizarre but just trying doing one yourself!HAHA When I was in Paris in 1993 I went a few times to the Picasso Musee there but more impressive is his musee in Barcelona. There you will see some of his art that I think will only be seen there – a funny story: I found my way to a far gallery of sensual and sexual drawings. I snuck some pic’s w/my camera making sure no one saw me. The next day I was robbed by 5 banditos on the metro – they got my purse w/camera and that undeveloped film. Oh saddness! His bull fighting series in another gallery was also impressive.

From: Patricia Palermino — Dec 07, 2010

Ken Robinson’s story about education is fantastic! It should be required for every person in the US.

Patricia Palermino
From: Veronica Stensby — Dec 07, 2010

Fabulous video. Ken Robinson’s lecture/video should be seen by all parents and educators (and everyone else, as well!)

Bravo, and thanks, Robert!!!
From: Ed Pointer — Dec 07, 2010

I’ve often thought that Picasso, after his period of classical training, had tired of the “same old art” everyone was painting at the time, expressing himself in a more creative manner. I’ve noted that realism in art today is becoming so prominent it is actually boring. Of course not all realistic painting is boring but a lot of it is. Subject matter is basically the same. In Western art how many cowboys on horses is tolerable; how many Indians on horses can we see in a lifetime? Probably more than actually exist in our country today. There is a sameness in much of today’s art and not a lot of creativity. I sometimes feel the need to add a little touch of Picasso to my own work. I am however puzzled as to how he was able to become such a success—we should all be so “lucky…”

From: Marie — Dec 07, 2010

What I really liked about today’s post was the 11 minute video of Robinson’s paradigm on education. I’m sending everywhere in my network. Great stuff! ADHD seems to be an excuse for not teaching your children good manners. (I know, there’s more to it – but try teaching to a few and you’ll join my ranks.)

From: Chris Cantu — Dec 07, 2010

I have noticed that many people, including artists, feel a bit threatened when faced with Picasso’s oeuvre. That is, it seems incomprehensible that one man could master the arts of drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and even ceramic arts, all the while breaking new ground and inspiring artists everywhere to take up where he left off. His prodigious talents are undeniable;say what you will about woman-hating, commercialism, etc. I judge him as an artist, not as if her were my neighbor. He and Matisse are the towering figures of 20th c. art

From: Gene Martin — Dec 07, 2010

Matisse had the greatest of respect for Picasso, as I do. It is important to always remember to view all art in the context of the period it was created.

From: sophia delaat — Dec 10, 2010

I agree that the educational system in the US contributes to the problems we face today. On the most part young people are taught ideas that have already had their day-thinking that addressed issues from another time; they are not taught in a way that maximizes their innate abilities. This begs the question as to what is a human being and what should we educate? We need to cultivate the thinking, the will as well as the heart. Waldorf education has been doing just this since 1919. Public education today is aimed at students who most likely will achieve anyway. An education informed in the arts and the art of teaching utilizes a full spectrum of creative and interactive experiences to develop the imagination that partners in time with the intelligence to make a living thinking capable of perceiving beyond appearances. Additionally, Waldorf education transforms the basic 5 senses into the higher octave of perception which include a sense for balance, language and (very importantly) the other human being.

To educate students to be creative, imaginative adults living with a sense of wonder, reverence and awe, we as teachers must be on the same path. Let’s not keep reforming an outdated system-let’s not see the problem as the teacher’s fault. Can we envision a society that values the integration of the arts and science in such a way as to redefine what it is to be a human being?
From: N. M. Jones — Dec 11, 2010

I love going to art shows of almost any sort and I loved going to this Picasso one. I live in Seattle.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 13, 2010

Wow! That short by Sir Ken Robinson was amazing. Where was he when I was in school? I’ve always felt my education began when I left school and went out into the world. I began to read – what I wanted. Thus became a proficient reader. I began to see differently and talk differently. People began to take me more seriously. I too believe artists suffer more than others in our society. Imagine, no matter what art you created, it is dismissed as unimportant to world events or personal growth in the workplace? Being an artist today is redundant and superfluous to most of the business community except if they can moniterally benefit. The esthetic of making art is thrown by the wayside as unnecessary. Educator’s then didn’t see any correlation between art and the other sciences. In the industrialized world in which I grew up, art is considered an effeminate or ethereal pursuit inconsequential to “getting ahead” in life. It’s an indulgence our parents hope we would outgrow. I saw that in my parent’s eyes every time I showed up for Sunday dinner. It’s one thing to be considered a “black sheep”, but a black sheep and an artist all in one?? – Well you are double damned. I never understood why in school, teachers didn’t ask me what I was interested in. What books I would have liked to read. I’m sure if education is approached from the point of view of the students’ interests you can reach the child better. But we would have chaos in the schools. Who could teach every student on a one to one level? I learned math after school when I had to measure canvas and build furniture (one of my many pursuits in life) When I had to read music. Fractions came into play. School actually interrupted my education. Interestingly, I know that now. It explains some of my blocks as an artist and as a human being. It damaged my ego and I made up for it by being unruly and rebellious. Thank god for the sixties for I found my niche then. All things were possible and you could blossom and try new things and be accepted by your peers. I know it changed my life forever. Over time I took more control over who I was and what I wanted. Everyone else be damned. I still feel humbled when someone buys my work. It’s a throwback. In the back of my mind that old “unworthy” feeling creeps up and I fight it every day of my life. I jokingly say sometimes I wish I were born a shoe salesman. My life has been extraordinary thanks to all the arts of which I’ve been a part. Theatre, music and painting have given me experiences many others only dream of having.

From: Stevie J. Edwards — Jan 28, 2011

I am an artist myself and upon viewing the Picasso exhibition at SAM…I expected to leave even deeper under the great and dark shadow of a legendary genius! I mean all my life growing- up looking at, studying, trying to digest his massive body of work & innovations and also the man. But, truly I left at first a little bit disappointed! But the every next day, myself made hero of art had become so much more to me then a great looming shadow…he became all too human, a man! I really got in up & close to see the artworks and feel there energy…and found a great personal understanding of the man that help shape our world view of what art is, Like Columbus’s egg(once you’ve seen a thing …)! He is real, even with all the so called mistakes & cover ups, for therein lays genius(lesson learned)…we artist today must learn to get out from under the great shadow’s of the masters of the last century. We must learn our history and learn it well. To be come more creative, more innovative, for thy have set the watermark for us to reach even higher(as it should be), and humble enough and strong enough to get out from under that great dark shadow & stand on their predigest shoulders directly in the beautiful sunlight to view across the open plane at a brand new century…our century…our times. And boldly change it for posterity to look upon and wonder…and find their own way out in the sun of their times…for that is the genius of art! : by Stevie J. 01-29-2011

From: Robert Sesco — Feb 09, 2011

Again, many of the comments above revolve around the issue of commercialism vs. self-expression. I truly wish artists would resolve this issue for themselves once and for all, unless this would stunt active communication about art. There have been and always will be salesmen, artists, and artists who are salesmen. Any of these three can become famous, or not, or make a lot of money, or not. There IS no ‘fairness’ in the art jungle. You adore your artists, I adore mine. Some artists you adore got lucky, some attracted money because they were excellent. Some artists I adore paint classic figurative works on par with old masters and starve, and others squeeze paint from tubes onto large canvasses and sell out at Christies. Resolve to understand that you paint because you love to. Then, resolve to understand your relationship to money/income in that context. There is no black and white answer. Your way is a shade of gray in the entire pantheon of motivations and incentives for creating art. I have no idea how much money Picasso made during his lifetime, but I am impressed with his production, AND the fact that his influence, rightly or wrongly, was so great. In exhibitions I gravitate to his classical work rather than his abstract work even though this latter is the style you can recognize from across the room, which is what galleries want, newsletters stress for emerging artists, and what the world-at-large thinks of when the name Picasso is mentioned. Many of history’s most influential artists – and note that I did not write ‘history’s greatest artists’ – were great salesmen, had great connections, or lived during opportunistic times for art in general. I guess my point is, creation for sales is not evil or dirty, just as creation without recognition is not sad.

From: Stevie J. Edwards — Apr 12, 2012

Short & sweet…I loved the Picasso exhibition at the S.A.M. Seeing those great work’s up close was for me most wonderful. For all of you that don’t understand what a great innovative genius he was…him and only a handful of pioneer’s opened up the frontiers of modern art, so you are now free to study and create art as you see fit. Art must always go forward into the unknown. As Christopher Columbus egg trick…”once you see a thing done it’s easy” the trick is in originality, which is hard for most people! Point in general a prodigy way play Beethoven perfectly…but only a true genius can compose it. Or a brilliant mathematician may completely understand Einstein great equation E=mc2…well you get the idea…it takes more then study and great talent to truly be a creative genius…at best you’ll only be a great copy machine! m

    Featured Workshop: Julie Gilbert Pollard 112310_robert-genn4 Julie Gilbert Pollard Workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.     woa  

Egret Landing

original painting by Barbara Lussier, CT, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Connie Cuthbertson of Fort Frances, ON, Canada, who wrote, “I was absolutely blown away by a Bernini statue titled Apollo and Daphne in the Borghese collection in Rome. The power and passion of this Greek myth forever immortalized in marble has left a lasting impression on me. But I found it interesting how absolutely no handbags were allowed in, but they did permit me to enter with a sketchbook and permanent marker!” And also Yves Dedault of Paris, France, who wrote, “Picasso commendably tried a lot of things, but he was also one of the 20th Century’s greatest pioneers of amateurization.”