Watch Picasso Create Entire Paintings in Magnificent Time-Lapse Film (1956)

How did Pablo Picasso do it? Art historians have spent much time and many words answering that question, but in the video above, you can watch the painter in the act of creation — or, rather, you can watch a series of his paintings as they come into being, evolving from spare but evocative collections of marker strokes into complete images, alive with color. We see Picasso’s visual ideas emerge, and then we see him refine and revise them, sometimes toward a surprising result. All of this happens in under two minutes, since filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot shot the artist working with time-lapse photography, compressing each creative process into mere seconds.

This particular sequence became the trailer of Clouzot’s 1956 documentary The Mystery of Picasso. The paintings in it, we read at the end, “cannot be seen anywhere else. They were destroyed upon completion of the film.” Though word on the street has it that one or two of them may actually survive somewhere today, the idea of Picasso paintings existing only on film does capture the imagination, and it moved the French government to officially declare The Mystery of Picasso a national treasure. Picasso had, of course, painted on film before, as you might recall from seeing us feature Paul Haesaerts’ 1950 Visite à Picasso.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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  1. Jim C says . . . | May 20, 2013 / 2:19 am

    nothing that my 7 year old couldn’t do

  2. Fernanda Baffa says . . . | May 20, 2013 / 10:45 am

    Como faço para achar o link com esse filme completo? Alguém poderia me informar?

  3. J.C. Nahrling says . . . | May 23, 2013 / 9:14 am

    The photography of this film was done by a man named Claude Renoir, who’s grandpa was called Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

  4. AH says . . . | August 17, 2013 / 12:03 pm

    you’re right Jim C- so why doesn’t he? And where are your 7 year old’s masterpiece realistic paintings that he got bored of before he moved to abstraction?

  5. pinar says . . . | August 17, 2013 / 1:02 pm

    Jim C- This is exactly what Picasso aimed for: paint just like a child! He even tried to forget what he’d learned just to be able to learn to paint like a child!

  6. Tom says . . . | August 17, 2013 / 1:14 pm

    So Jim C. Can your 7 year old do this too:
    I do not intend for this to be mean spirited, and perhaps you’re being ironic anyway, but with a little understanding of the history of art you would realize how silly your comment is.

  7. hubertus fremerey says . . . | September 13, 2013 / 2:58 pm

    great again ! People think it is simple, but it iss not at all. One should always have in mind that P was a master with 17 already and then looked for something new. Go to Barcelona to know that. Or take up a book with pics of young Picasso.

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