Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pablo Picasso, Cartoonist

"I was very suspicious of high culture, not of low, and it took a long time for me to crack the code and say, ‘You know what, Picasso’s a pretty good cartoonist.'"
 --Art Spiegelman

While I doubt the art world is ready to acknowledge Pablo Picasso's status as a "pretty good cartoonist," I think that Art Spiegelman is on to something here. You wouldn't make such a statement about Cezanne, Matisse, or--paradoxically--Lichtenstein. Picasso creates fine art in a way that is immediate, comprehensible, and accessible. In much of Picasso's art the line-work is bold and direct, simplicity itself. You think, I can do that, only you can't. The act of creation seems spontaneous.  Playful, comic, even absurd motifs don't make the fine art any less fine.

One could imagine a cartoonist such as William Steig drawing many of the same subjects as Picasso. In fact, Steig was influenced strongly by Picasso (see Brendan Gill's Here at the New Yorker [1975], p. 238), and he is far from alone in that among cartoonists and artists of all sorts. Picasso has exerted his influence across the world of cartooning.

Here are two works by Picasso that you wouldn't call cartoons, yet looking beyond the stunning yet simple technique they have intensity, humor, and humanity, which incidentally are elements of many a fine cartoon as well.

Pablo Picasso, Tête d'Homme de Face, February 19, 1968

Catalogue Notes to Pablo Picasso, Tête d'Homme de Face, February 19, 1968

Pablo Picasso, Femme et Nain, December 18, 1953

Art Spiegelman 

January 19, 2013:  Video no longer available


Note:  I am indebted to Austin Kleon for discussing this video here, thus bringing Mr. Spiegelman's intriguing quotation to my attention. 

My most recent Picasso post regards his Déjeuner series and can be found here. 

Art Spiegelman created the 2002 poster in my New York is Book Country post here.


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