Letter: How to take an interest in art

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The Independent Online
Sir: In view of the current Picasso exhibition in London and the attacks on the artist, mostly in the tabloid press, I was intrigued to come across recently in my late father's papers the following confession by the artist. If true, does it detract from the artistic merit of the paintings, especially those done in his later years?

In his Libro Neri, published in 1952, Giovanni Papini describes his visit to Picasso, when the artist delivered himself as follows:

In art, the mass of people no longer seek consolation and exultation, but those who are refined, rich, leisured, who are the distillers of quintessences, seek what is new, strange, original, scandalous. I myself, since Cubism and even before, have satisfied these masters and critics with all the changing oddities that have passed through my head; and the less they understood me the more they admired me. By amusing myself with all these new games, with all these puzzles, rebuses and arabesques, I became famous, and that very quickly. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, fortune, riches. So today, as you know, I am celebrated and rich.

But when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya were great painters. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and has exhausted as best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear. But it has the merit of being sincere.

Yours faithfully,

PHILIP POUND

Small Hythe, Kent

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