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The Mystery of Picasso
January 1, 2007 9:44 PM   Subscribe

This time-lapse video of an oil-painting being created by Pablo Picasso is brief, but captivating. The clip is a scene taken from the 1955 French documentary "The Mystery of Picasso," in which director Henri-Georges Clouzot filmed the artist painting 20 different pieces. Bizarrely enough, almost all the art created for the film had to be destroyed upon close of production due to contractual obligation. Via
posted by jonson (28 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
that is a fascinating progression... most unexpected.
posted by phaedon at 9:53 PM on January 1, 2007


Also via 16mm filmstrip when I was in middle school. Something very surreal about seeing that again, all of a sudden, after fifteen years.

I remember the concensus at the time was something like this:

"Man. That cow was looking really good, but then he went and fucked it all up."
posted by cortex at 9:53 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think I understand better now. For me it was 'Guernica' and nothing else made sense. The layering over the two dimensions in this time lapse made it build to what we see. We don't see how it got there without this. Nice!
posted by nj_subgenius at 10:04 PM on January 1, 2007


reactions:

part I: meh, what crap
part II: wow, I see what he's doing here. . .
part III: awesome!
part IV: hrmm
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:17 PM on January 1, 2007


That's amazing. Instead of going to the canvas with a finished painting in his head, he went with a process. It's like he was working out an equation or philosophical problem as he painted. The first layer is a question, and he continues with the answer.

The Spousal Unit was looking over my shoulder, and commented that it would be a wonder to see more like this--to watch Pollock's process, to know how Vermeer built his layers. What an eye-opener. Thank you.
posted by frykitty at 10:19 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Reactions (thank you Heywood for the format)

Part I: What is this?
Part 2: Oh!
Part 3: This is sort of dull....
Part 4: Oh wow!
Part 5: What is this?

Great link, thanks!
posted by eparchos at 10:24 PM on January 1, 2007


It looks less finished at the end than it did in the middle... which is a Very Good Thing.
posted by unSane at 10:32 PM on January 1, 2007


A glimpse of genius at work, very exciting - I loved this. Thanks, jonson, now I know how part of my Amazon gift certificate will be spent - I have to get this documentary!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:34 PM on January 1, 2007


It's a decent little flick, no doubt about it.
posted by Wolof at 10:39 PM on January 1, 2007


... it would be a wonder to see more like this--to watch Pollock's process ...

The 1951 documentary on Pollock Jackson Pollock 51 by Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg has a segment showing Pollock painting on glass and filmed from below (extract, without glass painting, here).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 10:43 PM on January 1, 2007


Well, we all now know jonson either does not have a time machine or it's in the shop.
posted by y2karl at 10:47 PM on January 1, 2007


y2karl, don't I wish. Of course, if I had one, then there's a chance nj_subgenius would have one, and he'd just use it to go back and beat me.
posted by jonson at 10:51 PM on January 1, 2007


This is just way too fuckin' great. Fascinating. Thanks, jonson. And, what frykitty said (except when it got to the Spousal Unit part: my S.U. is at some other site on her own computer, at the moment).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:48 AM on January 2, 2007


Excellent, though I'd have to agree: it looked better before he changed it all. But then that's why he's a genius and I'm not.
posted by Acey at 4:08 AM on January 2, 2007



Well some people try to pick up girls
And get called assholes
This never happened to Pablo Picasso
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare and
So Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole

Well the girls would turn the color
Of the avocado when he would drive
Down their street in his El Dorado
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not like you
Alright

Well he was only 5'3"
But girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole
Not in New York

Oh well be not schmuck, be not obnoxious,
Be not bellbottom bummer or asshole
Remember the story of Pablo Picasso
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole
Alright this is it

Some people try to pick up girls
And they get called an asshole
This never happened to Pablo Picasso
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare and so
Pablo Picasso was never called...

posted by jpburns at 4:46 AM on January 2, 2007


Thanks, jonson; I really loved that. My favorite depiction of Picasso's process has always been the famous Gjon Mili portrait of him painting a centaur with light. That utter sureness of line -- even in air -- is a beautiful thing to watch unfold.
posted by melissa may at 6:41 AM on January 2, 2007


For those interested in the process of creation ala Pollock, I suggest renting Ed Harris' "Pollock" and fast-forwarding to the scene where he creates the murals for Peggy Guggenheim's apartment. I can't think of a better depiction of the power and emotion in the act of artistic creation than that scene. Really well done.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:00 AM on January 2, 2007


Thing is, Picasso didn't care how it looked. He cared about the process.

The guy was painting photorealistic portraits at 13.

He knew he could paint a bull fight. That bored him. What he didn't know is what else he could get out of the scene. So he painted the basics, and then, yeah, deliberately fucked it up looking for some magic in expression, line, form, color, or whatever showed up.
posted by JWright at 7:27 AM on January 2, 2007


Yes, get this documentary. I watched the whole thing last night, mesmerized.
Precursor and anti-thesis of Bob Ross.
posted by bobobox at 9:09 AM on January 2, 2007


wow, jonson. This is truly fantastic. A glimpse into the thought process behind a painting. Amazing! Note how he more or less starts to paint in less abstract form, clear images and constant angles, then he adds the color and then he totally goes off to different viewpoints (cubism extraordinaire) and angles at the end. Totally fascinating. I assume this should be thoroughly studied and analyzed. I wish we had similar resources for other artists too.

I am so getting this documentary too, mjjj
posted by carmina at 9:26 AM on January 2, 2007


This is what I want to show people when they see modern works of art and say "I could do that". Like JWright said, he could paint photorealism, but it's much more interesting to see that realism deconstructed. Very cool post.
posted by thekilgore at 9:54 AM on January 2, 2007


Fantastic. Thanks Jonson. Your posts lately have been great.
posted by ninthart at 10:09 AM on January 2, 2007


Thanks, ninthat. I was trying to win a contest.
posted by jonson at 10:28 AM on January 2, 2007


I believe that the reason none of the work from the film survives is due to the special materials Picasso had to use. The paints were unstable and faded relatively quickly after drying. Can't remember where I read this.
Good post.
posted by landis at 10:53 AM on January 2, 2007


Wonderful post! Thanks once again jonson. Picasso's process is thrilling. More Picasso painting live. More of Picasso's process in action, The Mystery of Picasso, 1956, part 1, part 2.
posted by nickyskye at 7:50 PM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Awesome...and the docu went to the top of my amazon wish list, tyvm.
posted by faineant at 8:55 AM on January 3, 2007


Great reference, I linked it at El misterio de Picasso.
posted by jlori at 9:41 AM on January 3, 2007


someone once said that knowing how to paint is half the battle, you also have to know when to stop painting. I thought he had a better version somewhere in the middle.

but it was damn cool to see a genius at work. nice post.
posted by elfollador at 10:34 AM on January 3, 2007


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