Friday, March 6, 2015


When I met my husband many, many years ago, he gave me his precious copy of the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke. It was his way of “testing me,” checking to see if I was “wife material.” Anyhow, I was less than impressed with Rilke (although I wouldn’t dare tell him!) until I decided to try to read his work in the original German. Not that I could read German, but I knew enough to be able to sound the poems out. That’s when I realized how good Rilke was; like many poets (and writers), he probably got “lost in translation.”

Connected Mona Lisas (Picasso style)
Oil on Canvas       30"x40"
The Rilke incident came back to me yesterday when I started to write this post. I had finally gotten around to reading a book I have owned for many years called Picasso on Art: A Selection of Views, put together by noted art historian, Dore Ashton. She begins, apologetically, by saying that Picasso refused to write about art (thank God!) but often held serious verbal discourses with his friends. Since all these quotes are based on their notes (memory is notoriously uncertain) plus translation from two, possibly three languages (Spanish to French to English), we have to take them with the proverbial grain of salt. Many, I must say, sound like something Picasso WOULD have said, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Here are some quotes I thought might interest you, ostensibly from the mouth of the master.

Have you ever seen a finished picture? To finish a work? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul.

No, one doesn’t stop by oneself. You work and behind you stands somebody who is not a professional and it is he who makes the decisions.

Cubist Self Portrait
Oil on Canvas      38"x24"
Everyone wants to understand art. Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting people have to understand it. Gertrude Stein joyfully announced to me the other day that she had at last understood what my picture of the three musicians was meant to be. It was a still life.

Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself. And to try to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. To make oneself hated is more difficult than to make oneself loved.

Photography has arrived at a point where it is capable of liberating painting from all literature, from the anecdote and even from the subject. So shouldn’t painters profit from their newly acquired liberty, and make use of it to do other things? 

In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish: love must be proved by facts not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.

Museums are just a lot of lies, and the people who make art their business are mostly imposters.
Orgy Scene
Oil Sketch on Canvas    40"x48"

And my favorite (an explanation of a sketch on wrapping paper for a cut-metal sculpture):
It’s a chair, and you see that it is an explanation of cubism! Imagine a chair passed under the rollers of a compressor; it would turn out just about like that. 

Anyhow, the best part of my little book on Picasso aren’t his quotes but his drawings. Since they’re probably copyrighted, I didn’t want to use them so I rummaged through a couple of my old portfolios for some suitable drawings and damned if everything I ever did didn’t have a touch of Picasso in it!

As a friend of mine used to say (unoriginally): "If you're going to steal, steal from the best."


  1. Enjoyed this ! of your "better-blogs"- DGP

  2. Liked the unintentional ambiguity of P. quoting G.S. to ridicule "understanding". In fact, she was, as often, quite perspicacious. We know that P., at least once, actually transformed a figurative painting into a still life (Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table-1909) and that possibility is inherent in his composition of the Three Musicians, MOMA version. Bruce G.

  3. “Museums are just a lot of lies, and the people who make art their business are mostly imposters.” Love it! Why are museums afraid of exhibiting your brilliant series on the Seven Deadly Sins? Even the Museum of Biblical Art?