Notes from Life with Picasso

Francoise Gilot


Consider this;

“ We need one tool to do one thing, and we should limit ourselves to that one tool. In that way the hand trains itself. It becomes supple and skillful and the single tool brings with it a sense of measure that is reflected harmoniously in everything we do. The Chinese taught that for a watercolor or a wash drawing you use a single brush. In that way, everything you do takes on the same proportion. Harmony is created as a result of that proportion, and in a much more obvious fashion than if you used brushes of different sizes.

Then too, forcing oneself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates intention. It obliges you to make a kind of progress that you can’t even imagine in advance.” Page 49


“ Do whatever you want but make a composition…. that stands on its own feet.”

“You must always work not just within but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, handle only five. In that way the ones you do handle, you handle with more ease; more mastery and you create a feeling of strength in reserve. “ Page 50


Read page 51 for a description of a painting.


“ Non-figurative painting is never subversive. It’s always a kind of bag into which the viewer can throw anything he wants to get rid of. You can’t impose your thought on people if there is no relation between your painting and their visual habits. I am not speaking of the connoisseur of painting. I mean the average person whose visual habits are pretty conventional. He sees a tree in a certain fashion in accordance with habits he formed in childhood. ………. In general, people see nature in a conventional fashion and they don’t want anybody tampering with it. ……” etc. page 64

“Attributes” and pure painting. See page 65


“what I understand is that if the attributes, – or, in a more general sense, the objects – were the main point of a painting, I would choose them with great care. For example, in a painting by Matisse, the object plays a major role. It isn’t any old object that is chosen to receive the honor of becoming an object in a painting by Matisse. They are all things that are most unusual in themselves. The objects that go into my paintings are not that at all. They are common objects from anywhere; a pitcher, a mug of beer…. an object at its most ordinary. I don’t go out of my way to find a rare object that nobody ever heard of, like one of Matisse’s Venetian chairs in the form of an oyster, and then transform it. ……” Page 67


“ Beginning with van Gogh, however great we maybe we are all, in a measure, autodidacts – you might almost say primitive painters. Painters no longer live within a tradition and so each one of us must recreate an entire language. Every painter of our times is fully authorized to recreate that language from A to Z. No criterion be applied to him a priori since we don’t believe in rigid standards any longer. In a sense that’s a liberation because when the individuality of the artist begins to express itself, what the artist gains in the way of liberty he loses in the way of order, and when you are no longer able to attach to an order, basically that’s very bad. “

Followed by a description about Cubism well worth reading. (page 68 and 69)


“you see one of the most fundamental points about Cubism is this; not only did we try to replace reality; reality was no longer in the object. Reality was in the painting.

When the cubist painter said to himself, I will paint a bowl, he set out to do it with the full realization that the bowl in the painting has nothing to do with a bowl in real life. We always had the idea that we were realists, but in the sense of the Chinese who said, I don’t imitate nature; I work like her. “ “Aside from rhythm, one of the things that strike us most strongly in nature is the difference of textures: The texture of space, the texture of an object in that space – a tobacco wrapper, a porcelain vase – and beyond that the relation of form, color, and volume to the question of texture. “ etc. page 70


Page 252. Ideas about the unconscious, automatism, interpretation, dynamism.


Page 253 and 254. “ it’s the way he, Matisse uses color. In Matisse’s work, when you find three tones that are put on close to one another – let’s say a green , a mauve and a turquoise – their relationship evokes another color which one might call  the color. That is the language of color. Matisse said, “ you need to leave each color its zone of expansion”. On that point I am in complete agreement with him. That is that color is something that goes beyond itself. If you limit a color to the interior, let’s say to some particular black curved line, you annihilate it, at least from the point of view of the language of color because you destroy its power of extension. It is not necessary for a color to have a determined form. It is not even desirable. What is important is its power of expansion……… as a rule in my own work, I don’t use that language. I use the language of construction in a fairly traditional manner, the manner of painters like Tintoretto or El Greco who painted entirely in camaieu, and then once the painting was finished would add transparent glazes od red or blue to brighten it up and make it stand out more. The fact that in one of my paintings there is a certain spot of red isn’t the essential part of the painting. The painting was done independently of that. You could take the red away and there would always be the painting; but with Matisse, it is unthinkable that one could suppress a spot of red, however small, without having the painting immediately fall apart.”


 Page 254, Bonnard, sensibility etc. comparing his color to Matisse.


Page 266, Matisse, Leger, Braque


Page 327, Charlie Chaplin. “ It’s the same thing, to the extent that you work on the senses to convey your meaning. Mime is the exact equivalent of the gesture in the painting by which you transmit directly a state of mind – no description, no analysis, no words. “