Cover image of the review
Pablo Picasso and Madoura Pottery, Vallauris, Face with Grid, Round Dish, 1956, earthenware, ed. 76/100, 50 × 42.5 cm diameter, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by John and Cecily Adams, 2015. © Succession Picasso/Copyright Agency, 2022. Photo: NGV

The Picasso Century

9 Jul 2022
National Gallery of Victoria | NGV International 10 Jun - 9 Oct 2022

In a 1988 Sydney Morning Herald article, Steve Jobs effectively summarised his “genius bad boy” persona with a quote he attributed to Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal”. Fittingly, the quote is certainly apocryphal—versions of it have also been attributed to T.S. Eliot, Igor Stravinsky and several others—however you can understand why Jobs might have thought it came from Picasso. For well over a century, there has been an entire industry dedicated to supporting the impression of Picasso as the exemplary genius bad boy, whose sheer inimitability simply demolished any prior or competing claims to the authorship of the ideas that appeared in his work. For example, in his three-volume biography of the artist, John Richardson relates how for a period of time Constantin Brancusi refused Picasso access to his studio on the grounds that Picasso would steal his ideas:

“Picasso is a cannibal”, Brancusi said. He had a point. After a pleasurable day in Picasso’s company, those present were apt to end up suffering from collective nervous exhaustion. Picasso had made off with their energy and would go off to his studio and spend all night living off it. Brancusi hailed from vampire country and knew about such things, and he was not going to have his energy or the fruits of his energy appropriated by Picasso.

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