Robert Genn sends me his Painter's Keys letters every week. Today he reprinted his very first letter:
In 1903 Gertrude Stein commissioned Picasso to paint her portrait. It was during the time when he was still trying to paint in a relatively realistic manner. Gertrude attended no less than 90 sittings. Every afternoon for three months she trotted forth with her little dog and took her position. On what was to be the last sitting, Picasso told her not to come. He scraped away everything he had done on her face and painted from memory. Thus the painting was finished.Everyone who saw the work didn't think it looked like Miss Stein. Contemporary photos of her bear little or no resemblance to it. Picasso admitted that it didn't look like her, "but," he said, "she will begin to look like it." About this time Sargent and Whistler were doing portraits of quality, elegance--and with a likeness--in less than a dozen sittings. One might conclude that Picasso didn't know what he was doing. There's a lesson in all of this. Shortly after the Stein portrait Picasso co-invented Cubism. The rest is history. The Cubist style did not require likeness. It required something else. Something that Picasso had. Picasso's lesson was to follow a direction that gave him a chance of success.
"Titian, Rembrandt and Goya were the great painters. I am only a public clown." (Pablo Picasso)
From Robert Genn's Painters Keys To see Picasso's portrait and photos of Gertrude Stein, click http://clicks.robertgenn.com/creative-agnosia.php