The artist Pablo Picasso represents the 20th century. Marina Picasso, the painter’s granddaughter, quoted her father in a book as saying, “At eight, I was Raphael. It took me a whole lifetime to paint like a child.”
Picasso described himself as a child; wasn’t this celebrated master being overly humble? But he said much the same thing in 1966 at the age of 85 when a woman asked him why his later work appeared more youthful and exuberant than his older pieces. He answered, “It takes a long time to become young.”
As these quotes show, Picasso didn’t blow his own horn or develop a huge ego. He wasn’t bound by others’ opinions or social formalities. He stayed true to himself and presented himself without embellishment.
This attitude shines through Picasso’s art as well. Consider the cubist Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Picasso used concise lines and various angles to create the piece. Deviating from convention, he expressed his subjects simply.
One day, another artist came to Picasso with a drawing of a cat and asked if Picasso wasn’t embarrassed to draw so haphazardly like a child, saying that he himself could draw well. Picasso listened in silence and sketched for a few minutes, then showed the other artist the result. It was identical to that man’s sketch. In fact, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was completed only after hundreds of practice sketches over the course of months.
Picasso chose not to use elaborate adjectives to describe himself and remained unwavering even after countless compliments. He explained his work in forthright, plain terms:
“Abstract art is only painting. And what’s so dramatic about that? There is no abstract art. One must always begin with something. Afterwards one can remove all semblance of reality; there is no longer any danger as the idea of the object has left an indelible imprint.”
Recently, a certain company has been zealously learning the secrets of Picasso’s drive. That company is none other than Apple. A 2014 New York Times article entitled “Simplifying the Bull: How Picasso Helps to Teach Apple’s Style” described how employees are trained using Picasso’s Bull series at Apple’s corporate university. In this series, Picasso showed step by step the process of changing several lines to change the three-dimensional look of the animal.
An Apple representative was quoted in the Times as explaining to employees, “You go through more iterations until you can simply deliver your message in a very concise way, and that is true to the Apple brand and everything we do.” Business Insider wrote, “That [Picasso’s] drive toward simplicity animates Apple. The company’s attitude toward simplicity is part of what has allowed it to make technology attractive to people.”
It’s likely that even upon discovering how a cutting-edge company learned from him, Picasso would have remained unfazed. After all, as he said, “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”
Suh Yoon's Quotes“We are strongest when you have yourself simply as you are.”