Whilst travelling France recently I went to the MuseePicasso, a beautiful 17th century mansion that held many of Picasso’s well known and lesser known works, along with the work of many of his contemporaries.
I have always liked Picasso’s bizarre cubist paintings, however, I had never explored him properly as an artist. I didn’t fully understand exactly why he was such an incredibly well known artist and what it was that caused him to be seen as one of the 20th centuries greatest painters and innovators.
My previous knowledge was that Picasso had started off doing drawings, I had seen some of his still life and portraiture work a few years ago at an exhibition in the Art Gallery of Western Australia, but it was only after I went to the Musee Picasso in Paris that I realised the full extent of who he was and what had caused him to rise to such heights of fame and success and to ultimately cement himself in the sands of time as one of the greatest artist to have ever lived.
Three things stood out to me about Picasso as an artist and the way that he produced his work and although they are simple things I believe that it is often the simple things that are overlooked. I believe These three points can be applied to any endeavour not just in the arts, but also in business, relationships, health, wealth, happiness and well-being,
After a lot of consideration I have concluded that these appear to be the fundamentals that are consistent with everyone that becomes successful and the perfect part is that they operate within a structure that’s really fairly straight forward.
From my visit to Musee Picasso in Paris I learnt 3 things, the first being,
1. Picasso studied the masters.
From a very young age Pablo Picasso was replicating the great works of art that had been before him, His father would sit him down and get him to trace and redraw pieces that had been painted or produced by the most incredible artists of the time. His father was an arts teacher and was disciplined in his approach to teaching the young Picasso, he had him drawing pictures of the human body from live models and sculptures and he ensured that Pablo was ever focused on his artistic endeavours, often to the point of detriment to his school work. At the age of 16 he was sent to study at Spain’s most prominent art’s school and began attending art exhibitions and admiring the slightly haunting and vaguely distorted work of the famous 16th Century artist El Greco.
As he got older he was spending more time in art circles and began viewing, obtaining and collecting works from other artists, with his collection including pieces by Joan Miro, Auguste Renoir and Henri Matisse, he studied the artists past and present that were making an impact on Europe and the world at large and he aimed to learn from their works and the path that they had gone down.
He was always the student, even into his later years when he would be considered one of the greats he continued to absorb new art from new artists and continued to study those that had been before him.
2. Picasso experimented with different mediums
Prior to entering the Musee Picasso i personally had no idea the full extent of the work that Picasso had done over the course of his lifetime, obviously he has a massive amount of reputation that revolves heavily around the cubist movement that he helped to co-found with George’s Braque, but what is very rarely shown is his exploration of different mediums aside from his drawings and his paintings.
The man was a chameleon.
Just when people thought that they could pin point who he was and what he was about he would start working in a different style and with new techniques. I was gobsmacked by the way that he utilised buttons and other random objects to make beautiful sculptures and was taken aback by the fact that he didn’t limit himself to one art form for his creative expression. At the end of the day this experimentation with new mediums and ways of doing things meant that he gave himself multiple perspectives and ways of viewing the world and what he was doing, with each new skillset that he learnt he added another layer of depth to his work, Subsequently it led to originality and an outside the box approach to creativity.
He is known best for the cubist work that he started doing at the age of 28, but the cubist period was only possible because of the work that had been before it, the drawings and paintings that he did throughout his youth, the blue and rose period of his early twenties and the African influenced work that he did just prior. This early analytic cubism developed further into the incorporation of bits of paper and other mediums into the work which further developed the ideas behind cubism.
The reason that Picasso is associated with so many big idea’s in the artistic world during the early 20th century is because he was fresh with his thinking, he did not limit himself to one way of doing things, on the contrary he tried his hand at almost anything and everything visually creative and that approach led to him being considered a real innovator.
3. Picasso was prolific,
If you are successful or do something good once you may have just been lucky, but if you do well or produce many works worthy of consideration over an extended period of time then people start to take notice. Relentless in his creative spirit, Pablo Picasso produced MASSES of work over a career that spanned over 70 years. From a very young age Pablo Picasso was drawing and painting and by his mid teens he was doing it a lot, becoming more and more productive as the years went by. His life was in many ways governed by his work and his work was a reflection of his life. Just like the many mistresses that he had, the artwork depicting the many women of his fancy was in dumb-foundingly high quantities.
To be great at something you must practice, nobody starts off particularly adept at any skill-set, the more that you practice the better you get.
You can not increase the quality of your output without increasing the quantity of your output.
Pablo Picasso inherently knew this and through his career he did over 1,000 sculptures, close to 2,000 Paintings, thousands of prints and over 10,000 drawings, which alone is a phenomenal amount of work, on top of all that he also did hundreds of poems and wrote many plays. Life is a numbers game, you must do things many times over before what your doing makes a difference or before people will really take notice and once it does make a difference or they do take notice you must continue to do what you are doing and amp up your output.
Productivity is king and the individual with the most amount of work to show for their efforts is the person that has practised the most, simple.
The interesting thing about Pablo Picasso is that he is a man that has experienced some serious hardships and is not without a few personal shortcomings. He had his sister die when he was in his early teens from Diphtheria, in his early to mid twenties whilst living in Paris France he was living in borderline poverty and to top that all off his lover Eva Gouel died prematurely when he was in his early 30’s. He was a member of the French Communist Party and is said to have had some fairly outlandish political views. Meanwhile in his relationships he was far from a saint, cheating on his wife’s and partners, with many of them indicating that he was borderline abusive, further more he had tarnished and disconnected relationships with his children. No one is free of flaws.
But that isn’t the side of Picasso that get’s publicised, the largest discussion happens around the incredible work that he did and looking into it further it is highly likely that a part of the reason that he was so prolific and driven came from the underlying factors that contributed to the pain and hardship that he experienced and ultimately that he further perpetuated.
Picasso died at the age of 91 whilst he and his wife Jacqueline Roque were throwing a dinner party, his wife suffering from depression and unable to move on afterwards shot herself several years later.
During his life he produced countless amounts of work, with estimations being close to 50,000 pieces, spanning across masses of mediums, including drawing, painting, ceramics, fabric work, sculpture, poems and even plays, many of which were still in his possession at the time of his death.
Pablo Picasso’s name, his art and his successes have been cemented in the walls of history and his hardships and failings as a human being will slowly become less and less prominent as time passes by, undoubtedly his weaknesses will be even more down played and his greatness will become further exaggerated. He became a master because he studied the masters, He was an innovator because he experimented with different techniques and mediums and He will be forever remembered for his work because he was prolific, he contributed more to the arts than anyone else of his time not only in quantity of work but arguably in quality.
The rules that governed his success are applicable across all fields of human endeavour although as his relationships would show Picasso focused them primarily on his art. If you want to be the greatest or your greatest in any area you must understand, study and replicate the greatest. If you wish to innovate you must go through the process of experimentation and if you desire that your legacy becomes one of legend then you must be prolific, contributing more to your field of focus and constantly pushing yourself to produce to reach bigger and bolder new heights.
And that my friends, is what I learnt from the MuseePicasso.