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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

6 Pablo Picasso quotes that still resonate today

Some of the Spanish artist's words are just as relevant nearly 50 years after his death

Pablo Picasso in 1962. Photo: Wikimedia Commons 
Pablo Picasso in 1962. Photo: Wikimedia Commons 

Pablo Picasso was a man of many talents; he was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet and playwright, as well as one of the most important figures in the 20th-century art world, best known for co-founding the Cubist movement and significantly contributing to Surrealism.

At the same time, he lived a long life: and while his character has been put under question, his artistic legacy can't be disputed.

He died in France, aged 91, of congestive heart failure, on April 8, 1973. Nearly 50 years later, and some of his most famous quotes still ring true.

Pablo Picasso's 'Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee'. Getty Images
Pablo Picasso's 'Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee'. His art and wisdom remains as relevant today as ever. Getty Images

1. 'The world today doesn't make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?'

As a pioneer in the Cubist and Surrealist movements, Picasso's work was often compounding. Granted, the artist did live through two world wars, but could you imagine his reaction to our planet's environmental demise, Brexit or today's polarising leaders?

Our takeaway from this? The world never makes sense, and what we do in life doesn't always have to, either. After all, not everything fits neatly into a category or box – and that's OK.

2. 'All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up'

It’s the creative person's perennial dilemma. While the art market is worth tens of billions of dollars, the trope of the struggling artist remains as true today as it ever was. You just need to read our recent piece on the Philippines' jeepney designers to see that this challenge is perhaps even more prevalent than it was in Picasso's day.

As technology advances, a common tale emerges: that of tradition being trumped by modernity. While that undoubtedly comes with pros, the cons are difficult to ignore: jobs are lost, heritage crafts die out and the world becomes a little less colourful. Perhaps our biggest struggle remains in striking a balance between advancing into the future but not losing touch with our past.

Of course, Picasso was more troubled by the fact that as we grow up, we become less carefree. Look to quote number six for more on this topic.

3. 'Computers are useless. They can only give you answers'

While computers were probably far less useful when Picasso said this, the premise of this quote still rings true. We might not be able to do much without technology these days, but as the threat of masses of jobs being lost to automation looms, skills such as creativity, innovation and decision-making become ever-more important. Picasso was right: computers give us answers, but they can't form the questions we need to ask in the first place.

Are we ever really looking at the art, if we're taking a photo of it? AFP
Are we ever really looking at the art, if we're taking a photo of it? AFP

4. 'Every positive value has its price in negative terms... the genius of Einstein leads to Hiroshima'

Newton's third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is another issue we face in the digital age; and one highlighted in every single episode of Black Mirror. Technology is an incredibly amazing thing, but many of today's inventions and advancements can also be incredibly dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands.

From facial recognition to social media through to nuclear weapons, where innovation is spawned, so to does the choice of whether to use our designs for good or evil.

5. 'The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls'

It's so easy today to get wrapped up in the world's problems, when every doom-and-gloom headline is just a mere tap on our smartphone away. Soon enough, we can all slip into the lather, rinse, repeat routine.

What breaks us out of that? Art. Whether that's meant in the traditional or broader sense – whatever "art" means to you – using our imaginations and creative nous to see us happily through the day in 2019 is an enviable skill we're all trying to hone.

Picasso's 'Broc et verre'. The artist also said: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child". Courtesy of Opera Gallery
Picasso's 'Broc et verre'. The artist also said: 'It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child'. Courtesy of Opera Gallery

6. 'It takes a long time to become young'

Sometimes, it feels like we have the world on our shoulders, whether that's because of our responsibilities – as an individual, a parent, a partner, a friend, a colleague, an environmentally aware citizen, a compassionate fellow human – or because the world is changing at such a rapid pace, and that's why this little nugget from Picasso is so comforting. This isn't a far cry from quote number two on this list, either: to remain care-free, curious and creative as we age can be a struggle.

Picasso was known as a free spirit, a man who embraced his eccentric nature and didn't care what others thought. Towards the end of his life, Picasso began mixing the many styles he'd played with throughout his career, and dared to make sculptures larger, paintings more expressive and colourful. Some of his pieces from this period remain among his greatest and most memorable. Ultimately, as life gets increasingly more serious, we could all stand to be a little more young-at-heart, like Picasso.

The artwork 'Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace' (1917) by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is on display in the exhibition 'The Cubist Cosmos - From Picasso to Leger' at the Kunstmuseum Basel, in Basel, Switzerland until August 4. EPA
The artwork 'Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace' (1917) by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is on display in the exhibition 'The Cubist Cosmos - From Picasso to Leger' at the Kunstmuseum Basel, in Basel, Switzerland until August 4. EPA

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Read more:

Noura Al Kaabi: 'Culture is for everyone, not just a specific level in community'

Jeepneys in jeopardy: how Duterte's plan for public transport affects the Philippines' artists

The 10 artworks that inspired Louvre Abu Dhabi’s new roadside gallery

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Updated: April 8, 2019 12:30 PM

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