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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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Icon­ic Artists at Work: Rare Videos of Picas­so, Matisse, Kandin­sky, Renoir, Mon­et, Pol­lock & More

Picas­so Paint­ing on Glass

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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Comments (12)
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  • Jim C says:

    noth­ing that my 7 year old could­n’t do

  • Fernanda Baffa says:

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

  • J.C. Nahrling says:

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

  • AH says:

    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?

  • pinar says:

    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!

  • Tom says:

    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.

  • hubertus fremerey says:

    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.

  • Nik Willmore says:

    “When I was young, like all the young, art, great art, was my reli­gion; but with the years, I came to see that art, as it was under­stood until 1800; was hence­forth fin­ished, on its last legs, doomed, and that so-called artis­tic activ­i­ty with all its abun­dance is only the many­formed man­i­fes­ta­tion of its agony. Men are detached from and more and more dis­in­ter­est­ed in paint­ing, sculp­ture and poet­ry; appear­ances to the con­trary, men today have put their hearts into every­thing else; the machine, sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies, wealth, the dom­i­na­tion of nat­ur­al forces and immense ter­ri­to­ries. We no longer feel art as a vital need, as a spir­i­tu­al neces­si­ty, as was the case in cen­turies past. / Many of us con­tin­ue to be artists and to be occu­pied with art for rea­sons which have lit­tle in com­mon with true art, but rather through a spir­it of imi­ta­tion, through nos­tal­gia for tra­di­tion, through mere iner­tia, through love of osten­ta­tion, of prodi­gal­i­ty, of intel­lec­tu­al curios­i­ty, through fash­ion or through cal­cu­la­tion. They live still through force of habit and snob­bery in a recent past, but the great major­i­ty in all places no longer have any sin­cere pas­sion for art, which they con­sid­er at most as a diver­sion, a hob­by and a dec­o­ra­tion. Lit­tle by lit­tle, new gen­er­a­tions with a predilec­tion for mechan­ics and sports, more sin­cere, more cyn­i­cal and bru­tal, will leave art to the muse­ums and libraries as an incom­pre­hen­si­ble and use­less rel­ic of the past. / From the moment that art is no longer the sus­te­nance that nour­ish­es the best, the artist may exte­ri­or­ize his tal­ent in all sorts of exper­i­ments with new for­mu­las, in end­less caprices and fan­cy, in all the expe­di­ents of intel­lec­tu­al char­la­tanism. In the arts, peo­ple no longer seek con­so­la­tion, nor exal­ta­tion. But the refined, the rich, the indo­lent, dis­tillers of quin­tes­sence seek the new, the unusu­al, the orig­i­nal, the extrav­a­gant, the shock­ing. And I, since cubism and beyond, I have sat­is­fied these gen­tle­men and these crit­ics with all the var­i­ous whims which have entered my head, and the less they under­stood them, the more they admired. By amus­ing myself at these games, at all these tom­fool­ery’s, at all these brain-busters, rid­dles and arabesques, I became famous quite rapid­ly. And celebri­ty means for a painter: sales incre­ment, mon­ey, wealth. / Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich. But when com­plete­ly alone with myself, I haven’t the nerve to con­sid­er myself an artist in the great and ancient sense of the word. There have been great painters like Giot­to, Tit­ian, Rem­brandt and Goya. I am only a pub­lic enter­tain­er who has under­stood his time. This is a bit­ter con­fes­sion, mine, more painful indeed than it may seem, but it has the mer­it of being sin­cere.” — Pablo Picas­so (In ORIGIN 12, 1964)

  • john kerhu says:

    A fine exam­ple of the sto­ry” The Emper­or has no clothes” . You peo­ple are fools for believ­ing this is real­ly art. You must have missed fin­ger paint­ing class in kinder­garten.

  • Paul Kalac says:

    Of course Jim C & John Ker­hu, chil­dren CAN paint just like Picas­so in imi­ta­tion. But you won’t find a 7yr old con­ceiv­ing the works he con­ceived through­out the 20th cen­tu­ry. There lies the twist.

  • Guenter says:

    huber­tus: I agree total­ly with you… because I have been in Barcelona…wow!

  • Frank says:

    The hon­esty is almost painful and, sure­ly, dis­arms all the cyn­i­cal

    adverse crit­i­cism. Take him or leave him, the choice is the

    view­er’s, but there is no need to resort to low jibes. Emu­late

    the man’s humil­i­ty and sus­pend your judge­ment.

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