A classic piece of footage today: an excerpt from the 1956 film “Le mystère Picasso” by H.G. Clouzot.
To be honest, I’m not completely sure if this is actually Picasso’s atelier, but maybe that’s not all that important. It feels more like a film set anyway. And the stark black and white doesn’t allow for much of the surroundings to come through. Let’s just assume it really is his workplace and be done with it.
Clouzot asked Picasso to paint on a transparent canvas so he could film the painting from the other side. They did a whole lot of paintings and drawings in this way, twenty or so. Not all of them are successful, and Picasso destroys a lot of them. He destroys this one to, although I really liked the flowery-fishy-chicken. But who am I to argue with Picasso, huh?
It’s fun to see the two men, obviously friends, interact. Clouzot pushes Picasso, saying he should hurry with his painting before the filmstrip is finished. He even tries to trick him, telling him there is less time left than there actually is. Picasso pretends to obey his “director”, but of course does just as he pleases.
There is a lot of debate around this movie and Picasso in general. Some people will keep on proclaiming everything Picasso does to be a stroke of genius. Others cannot refrain from remarking that the Picasso we see here is nothing more than a mere poseur, Picasso playing Picasso and making “Picassos”. Me, I don’t like art-myths and I don’t like geniuses. I see a man who knows what he is doing, drawing pictures and I like seeing people drawing pictures. I just wish he would have left the chicken the way it was.