Thinking Versus Seeing—Picasso on Painting

Something powerful AND magical happened when the 19th century closed her doors and the 20th century opened her’s to ARTISTS.  A monumental revolution unfolded as artists experimented with formal elements within the creative studio process.  The result of this unbridled experimentation was visions of a new world—visions of a new world of imagery directly related to artist’s forms freed from their previous allegiance to tactile reality.  One of the great ART experimenters at the turn of the century  was the Spaniard Pablo Picasso!   Picasso freed forms from both the tactile world as well as the world of audience expectation.  Picasso seemed to understand this new era of time—celebrating the emergence of a new century of time—and, with that understanding, he allowed his forms to be free of the past and of the future.  Picasso enabled his forms through the power of his mind rather than what he believed he saw.  Picasso described the formal elements of making Cubist objects in this manner:  “I paint objects as  I think them, not as I see them…An idea is a beginning point and no more.”

What are your thoughts on the emergence of Experimental Art forms as offered by the Cubist painter Pablo Picasso?

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of D. H. Kahnweiler, 1910

Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

29 Comments

29 thoughts on “Thinking Versus Seeing—Picasso on Painting”

  1. This was the way that I see as fit for an outstanding artist, to paint through his or her mind, and Picasso is a talented man to do that. It just shows that people are not limited to just painting what they see, but what they imagine in their mind, and that may be the reason for much avant-garde art styles out there. Experimentation of what an artist can make without some visual to help them, or sometimes with one but using their own way of making it, like cubism. It is the way of free painting, free flow, and free imagination that can shape the painting.

    Like

  2. I think it’s fantastic that artists started to break up forms and bend them to reach the peak of their creativity. You can tell the 20th century art movement really allowed artists to experiment with formal elements of art that were previously instill heavily in the community. With this type of freedom, artists like Pablo Picasso really shined with his ability to paint what he thought forms looked like rather than just replicating what was there. Like previously said, this new form of art excuses itself from any label of time, because of how indistinguishable the people in these paintings are represented. This benefits those artists because it keeps their work relevant for longer durations of time in our culture/ community which might have been a struggle to accomplish for their predecessors.

    Like

  3. In my opinion, I think Picasso really pushed artists into experimenting new styles. His style was so different that it has become well known throughout all of our history. People look to Picasso’s work as a starting point to artist trying new things. I think the cube art was a great example of trying something new Imagine if Picasso just did like everyone else. We wouldn’t have the art that we do now, and we probably wouldn’t even know of Picasso.

    Like

  4. In my opinion, I think Picasso really pushed artists into experimenting new styles. His style was so different that it has become well known throughout all of our history. People look to Picasso’s work as a starting point to artist trying new things. I think the cube art was a great example of trying something new Imagine if Picasso just did like everyone else. We wouldn’t have the art that we do now, and we probably wouldn’t even know of Picasso. Picasso’s work reaches outside of the art community and touches pop culture in general. It’s something that has become inspiring for many artist to this day. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Picasso’s work because it is so different.

    Like

  5. Experimental art forms, you either love them or you hate them. This break from traditional during the 20th century is something that I love! Being able to break down the world around you, reshape it, then put it back together in a new way on canvas is brilliant. It really shows that Pablo Picasso saw the world in a whole different way. He was able to deconstruct his physical world and thoughts and reconstruct them into something beautiful and unique. This movement away from painting what is in-front of you really changed the art world and helped it progress into the art world we have today. I really like that he decided to paint things as he thought them to be, instead of what he physically saw. This brings so much imagination and creativity into his pieces. This really opened the door, for other artists to break the tradition of portraits and still-lives and creating what they wanted to see. Art is becoming more and more of an expression of self instead of a commission, or guild. I have found that many people today still do not understand or enjoy Cubism or any form of abstraction really. They think that this form of art is easy, I hear a lot “my toddler can do something like that”. Well if you look closely Picasso’s work is so intricate, so complex. It is far more complicated then people think. Unfortunately Cubism and experimental art is not for everyone. But we cannot deny the significance this art form and the artists had on the art world and the path that it took because of them.

    Like

  6. I think what was truly revolutionary about Picasso was the way his vision of what art could be was so different from anyone who came before him. He knew that, when painting, the final result could be beautiful due its own unique composition, form and color. It could be something autonomous and unique, a reality of its own. To Picasso, art could be its own thing to consider and enjoy rather than a replica or representation of something you could see in real life. In a way, he set his subjects free of constraints such as physics, logic, and convention so that they could exist in a space that was entirely his own. I definitely believe that this is an extraordinary gesture of empowerment for artists. To think that that the primary creative tool of an artist is their own imagination rather than their ability to reproduce a scene in a pleasant or favorable way is something that really set him apart. As a designer, I am thrilled by Picasso’s bold decisions and experimentations with line, color, and composition. What’s especially interesting is how he seemed to see the shapes and relationships in people and things and could use his observations to deconstruct the subject and turn it into something else. This is a a technique I’d love to learn to employ in my own work and will plan on experimenting with.

    Like

  7. I find it interesting that Picasso renders images ‘as he thinks them’ as opposed to what he actually saw, because it is such an emphasized rule in art, especially when you first start out, to draw what you see, not what you know. And we practice that in order to learn how to properly depict what is in front of us, but for someone who has already mastered drawing what they see, where do you go next? I think abstracting does lend back to childhood, because children aren’t as limited in their artwork when they are crafting, we leave them be because they are still learning, which in a sense, abstraction is a way of expanding what we already know into something else. I personally prefer art that is identifiable, and tangible, because we naturally like to make sense of the world in front of us, but I also can appreciate the complexities of abstracted art.

    Like

  8. Picasso was definitely at the forefront of art during the 20th century. I love how unique his style is. As someone who paints in a traditional old-school style, I look to him as a reminder to always think outside of the box. He also reminds me that even simple forms can make big, complicated statements. He separated himself so easily from other artists. Its easier and quicker to do that now, but Picasso took that first step. I remember him for his blue period more than his cubism. But I appreciate his cubism now. Anyone can get lost looking into it. He is like a chameleon where he has various styles. He can create cubes, blocky figures, and realistic paintings and intaglio prints. Its always good to have diversity. His cubism is basically a new art form he created himself, and people look back on it still to this day.

    Like

  9. I think Pablo Picasso saw the success he did throughout his lifetime because he was so adamant about making art that implemented his beliefs. Other artists in the past, such as Vincent Van Gogh, might have done the same with their work and pursued their styles regardless of others expectations, but Picasso was very vocal about why he did what he did to the public. He would speak with his work with a lot of confidence and explain that he focused more on conveying a vague representation of the ideas he was suggesting in his work, rather than displaying true forms. Cubism reminds me of taking a starting point idea and geometrically breaking it down. A lot of Picasso’s portrait paintings in the cubist style are obviously conveying facial features; however, they are arranged and depicted in a way that makes it difficult to identify the subject. His portraits, though often depicting his muses, are not supposed to be about paying homage to the subject represented like classical style portraits, but rather portraying raw emotion.

    Like

  10. Pablo Picasso set a new standard for all of the other new artists of his time. He is a great role model because he shows not to be afraid to try something new (whether you succeed or fail). Trying something new on canvas can lead you to a great discovery. One does not always have to have a particular style either. Picasso had many and he had masterpieces in all of the styles he tried. Although Picasso struggled doing faces, his imagination was more powerful than what his eyes let him see. Drawing or painting from real life and doing it in exact perspective is a great skill. However, creating something and seeing through your mind is far more deep and personal.

    Like

  11. The cubist movement hallmarked the concept of interpretation through a different sense. This change in art pinpoints the advancements in human understanding of themselves and the world around. When referencing artistic periods such as the Renaissance; where people were trying to find truth through recreating the human form and perspective with precision, and then to impressionism; where color and gestures in stroke became the point of analysis , to right here in cubism; where emotions, presence, and emotion define subjects there becomes a correlation to one another. As humans become more aware in their world, technology advances, and things of the concrete world become boring abstraction and ideas of the unseen are more attractive to artists. There is no need to render a still life specifically to how it is seen, but with Picasso there is an importance of what the essence of that still life is and how it relates to one’s understanding of spacial reality with everything else.

    Like

  12. I think that the Experimental Art forms of Picasso really embraced the emotion and thought-provoking images that Art provides. Picasso tried to capture the essence of his subjects rather than creating a realistic portrayal of them. I feel that his style of painting deals with more of the subconscious mind like surrealism. It makes the viewer of his work more obligated to continue to look at the work because it is not blatant to what the subject is supposed to be. This experimental style, in my opinion, keeps an audience’s attention more than a perfectly realistic looking image. I believe if the viewer is more captivated by an image then they are more likely to think more deeply about a piece of art.

    Like

  13. Pablo Picasso in my opinion one of the most recognizable artists of our time. I love that he painted what he thought and not what he saw. He set a new standard for all the artists of his time. I am happy that Picasso chose to make bold decisions and experiment with his artwork. I’ve always been a fan of his art pieces because it was always so different.

    Like

  14. I believe Picasso was definitely one of the more notable artists to come to mind when you think of the emergence of experimental art form. He made you think about simple logistics of how we move and operate as human beings and to turn that into an art form out of his thought process is remarkable. Picasso created an art form that has allowed its viewers to think of the new ways and future of not just art but everyday function. Sometimes being able to produce an art form out of what you think and imagine can lessen the limitations of producing art from what you see.

    Like

  15. Looking at Picasso’s work, you can see that his perception of the world was different than any artist before him. Not to say that all artists before him were similar but his work was so different that it’s like a breath of fresh air. I’ve always created artwork of what I see and not as I think of them and for Picasso to do just the opposite tells me that there’s a multitude of ways to create art and no correct way. Ultimately, I believe that Picasso wanted to break the limitations of how we can depict the human form as he shows us in his cubist paintings. He also shows us that art doesn’t have to always be an accurate depiction of the subject to get that same or different effect.

    Like

  16. I think experimental art was a great step for art in general. Being able to try different things and basically experiment with art and come out with something with it is great. I feel like by being experimental, you eliminate all barriers about creating art. You’re not trapped to a category or bound to a specific type. In my opinion, Picasso’s experimental art was a great step towards for art and with him leading it only gets better.

    Like

  17. As much as people say things like “anyone could do that” when they see an abstract painting, there are actually very few people who can think abstractly and even fewer who paint abstractly with as much success as Picasso did. Not only do I appreciate Picasso’s eye as a painter, I respect his choices to “free the forms” and execute it in such a direct way. If Picasso had painted things as he saw them, then all we would have now is some nice still life settings and for the most part realistic portraits. Instead, Picasso was able to articulate how he felt about the world around him by breaking down forms and making the viewer consider the composition deeper than for its face value.

    Like

  18. I believe the emergence of Experimental Art was an amazing step towards the future. It brought so many diverse visions into reality. Picasso’s idea of painting objects as he thinks them opposed to how he sees them is different to what is taught. I believe that this process could help to create one’s own style. For Picasso it unleashed a new way to grow and develop. It opened the door to a new territory as artists were able to unleash their creativity. His pieces had so much complexity and depth to them from the colors he used to the forms he created. It really makes viewers think and take apart each piece to understand what Picasso was thinking when he developed his works of art.

    Like

  19. In my opinion Picasso encompasses all it means to be an artist, and I’m not necessarily a fan of his work. But I think his statement, “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them…An idea is a beginning point and no more” perfectly sums up what art is about. The emergence of experimental artforms transformed art, and what was thought of as art. In the early twentieth century, we saw art evolve from being a “trade” or a skill and turn into a completely new way of seeing and thinking. Stretching the boundaries of what was considered art brought about new ways of seeing and expressing the world around us, as Picasso stated, “…as I think them, not as I see them…”.

    Like

  20. The emergence of Experimental Art in the 20th century was such a critical period for art. It must have been amazing to actually be there and experience new art that has never been done before. Our generation was pretty much born into a period where everything has been done before and we’ve seen all the styles that there is to be seen. The fact that artists like Pablo Picasso were able to bring something new into the art world is amazing. Pablo Picasso was a pioneer for true expression in art, which is why his work was able to make such a lasting impact on the world.

    Like

  21. There will always be those individuals that aren’t afraid to step outside the boundaries and try something new. Pablo Picasso was one of those people. If it wasn’t for individuals like Picasso other artists wouldn’t be as willing to try something new. Drawing from what you see is a great skill, but being able to draw from your mind is something that is very hard to master. Picasso was able to do just that and was able to create astounding pieces.

    Like

  22. Experimental Art forms are amazing! They push the very ideas of what see as acceptable or even possible. Creatives in many fields often push the envelope with ‘What if’s?’ Picasso saw that the world in his mind was far more interesting than the world around him. I do believe it was too bad that he did not reject the outside world all together because we do not really see his internal world, but rather his internal filter on the outside world.

    Like

  23. Maybe because of the frame of “Picasso” helped me to understand or makes me to high-value the piece. Those pieces are something that should seen more than a minute and think it carefully. I personally like experimental art forms because i think its a challenge because it is something that anybody will love. Some people would not like because it is not realistic, or seems strange. Also the work by Picasso will be affected what people feeling and their thoughts. Artists’ fame is that important and make people think more about the art piece and try to like the piece. I like the experiment to try or paint that can be divided into two groups, loving the piece or hating the piece.

    Like

  24. I feel with Picasso I was able to find an artist with whom I can closely relate. His thoughts on painting objects as he sees them rather than what they may look like to others help me to feel less insecure about my own artworks. I have always struggled immensely as an artist when it comes to the world of drawing and replicating real life in a traditional manner. And while through great effort and time on my part I am able to produce somewhat realistic and properly proportioned drawings, I take great comfort in the recognition and fame achieved by someone who no longer felt the need after years of trying to paint in that traditional way. The technical aspect of art and design, while important, are not the critical element when it comes to producing beautiful artworks, it all boils down to being able to greatly utilize skills such as composition and proper color theory to create quality art.

    Like

  25. Bold gestures takes unyielding strength, will and belief. To go against the grain exerts a bone chilling sensation derived from the external world, but is a necessity in the search for one’s truth. He thinks, he feels, he acts with conviction. That’s not to go without saying that the support of another who is able to share the vision is dismissed for it is quite crucial also. Man is an organism, and organisms are indeed inseparable from his environment. Picasso saw a crack in the doorway and kicked it open, as all great artist do, and Gertrude Stein was there to hold it open.

    Like

  26. I think without people and artists like Picasso then we wouldn’t have very many interesting objects in this world. Its artists like Picasso that drive the human race forward with his experimentation and expressionism. He didn’t care what people thought, he saw something visually in his head and had the need in his gut to put it on canvas. I think people that have this unique ability to push away the critics and see the future, are the ones who change things. Picasso was exactly this kind of artist and human being. Fearless to express and fearless to create without care if it was right or wrong, except for it needed to be done. He paved the way for artist to experiment and create things the way one as an individual sees fit. If that happens to change the world then so be it.

    Like

  27. I find Picasso’s idea of drawing from he thinks and not from what sees very interesting. It is a whole knew approach to what art can become. It’s genius that Picasso did this. He tapped into a new realm of art that didn’t exist at the time and mastered it. This experimental art form offered by Picasso was a milestone in the evolution of art.

    Like

  28. I believe that Picasso’s Portrait of D. H. Kahnweiler, 1910, used above, is a great example of the Cubism. Picasso’s portraits were different to what we were used to. The painting depicts Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s portrait in the Analytical Cubist style. The painting has brown as main color. In the painting we can see many short lines in different directions. When we look closely in the painting we can see a head, eyes, nose, lips and hands. It isn’t the classic portrait because it doesn’t depict the body figure clearly, it is an abstract representation of a human body. By making use of the Cubism, Picasso demolished everything people had believed a portrait to be for the past 2,000 years or so. Picasso described his work as: “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them… an idea is a beginning point and no more.”

    Like

  29. Picasso definitely opened the door for artist to express art in different forms. It takes a great mind to really think outside the box on how to approach a different style of painting. I could not grasp what I was seeing with this portrait when I first saw it in high school. It didn’t make sense to me because I couldnt register a face, so for that reason alone, it wasnt a protrait for me. But now that I’m older understand HIS concept behind it, its very intriguing to see how one thinks as opposed to viewing what they see.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s