Pablo Picasso on Achieving Success without Sacrificing Your Vision
For some artists, success is a dirty word. It could mean compromising integrity, or debasing innate creativity.
Picasso, of course, was speaking from experience. He’d come from humble beginnings, worked voraciously, and refused to compromise his artistic vision, no matter the trends or criticism. In the process, he’d achieved creative satisfaction, wide renown, and immense wealth.
It’s no wonder, then, that the famed Spanish modernist had a lot to say on the subject of success—something he believed that anyone could achieve, as long as they had the right recipe.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the conversation held on May 3, 1944, between Picasso and Brassa little-known drawings. He’d ferreted them away in favor of focusing on his photography career—and Picasso was hell-bent on bringing them into the light.
For the painter, success and uncompromising dedication to one’s craft went hand-in-hand. With gusto, he insisted that Brassa
Picasso believed that an artist should never abandon their creative passions—what really makes them tick, so to speak. Perseverance, he believed, was essential. While financial gain might come slowly, it would reward those who create the work they wanted to make, rather than the work they should make—or would deliver a quick buck. “I was often broke, too, and I always resisted any temptation to live any other way than from my painting,” Picasso continued. “In the beginning, I did not sell at a high price, but I sold. My drawings, my canvases went. That’s what counts.”
Picasso, of course, was unique in the level of success he attained. He died in 1973 knowing he’d revolutionized art—and with millions of dollars to his name. Even so, he believed achievement came in many forms, and that it shouldn’t be restricted to a select few. “Why…leave success to ‘best-selling painters’? Every generation has its own,” he mused, again to Brassa
For Picasso, success came with the responsibility of supporting others. He hoped he’d be a model for determination and creative risk-taking, and their presumed rewards: preservation of artistic integrity, with financial stability to boot. He was a savvy businessman, as John Berger pointed out in the watershed biography The Success and Failure of Pablo Picasso (1965), and routinely doled out advice to less-shrewd artist friends about the merits of marketing oneself and selling work.
Brassa drawings around his home for a studio visit he had already arranged with a Parisian gallerist. “I’m sure you’ll be successful.”
Indeed, that very day, Brassa
Alexxa Gotthardt is a contributing writer for Artsy.