Gretchen Rubin

Pablo Picasso Paints Fakes? A Koan about Creativity.

Pablo Picasso Paints Fakes? A Koan about Creativity.

Over the weekend, I was reading Arthur Koestler's book, The Act of Creation, and I was struck by the koan-like quality of the following story, which Koestler says is true:

An art dealer (this story is authentic) bought a canvas signed "Picasso" and travelled all the way to Cannes to discover whether it was genuine. Picasso was working in his studio. he cast a single look at the canvas and said: "It's a fake."

A few months later the dealer bought another canvas signed Picasso. Again he travelled to Cannes and again Picasso, after a single glance, grunted: "It's a fake."

"But cher maitre," expostulated the dealer, "it so happens that I saw you with my own eyes working on this very picture several years ago."

Picasso shrugged: "I often paint fakes."

I know this feeling well—the uncomfortable feeling that even though a particular piece of my work is original, it nevertheless feels repetitive, imitative, a perfunctory variation on a theme. And in other situations, too, I sometimes feel like I'm just repeating something that worked in the past, without re-imagining it or giving it a fresh spirit. Always a warning sign to push myself harder, to break through the familiar to something new.

Do you know this feeling —the feeling of painting your own fake?

 

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