Bust of a Man

Learn more

A further obstacle to liking these late works is the deceptive clumsiness of their technique. People who should have known better suggested that the artist had become senile and sloppy and that his hand had lost its cunning. […] No, far from losing any of his cunning, Picasso still had to make things as difficult as possible for himself and, by extension, for the viewer. True, in the past, dexterity, or rather his ingenious attempts to conceal dexterity, had on occasion got the better of him. Seldom, however, in the last paintings. The technique is very much there, above all the infinite variety of the formal invention and the wonderful plasticity of the paint, but it is never an end in itself.

In fact, the clumsiness of Picasso’s very late paintings is disingenuous to the point of deceptiveness. Technique, said Picasso, is important, ‘on condition that one has so much…that it completely ceases to exist.’ There is nothing hit-or-miss about his seemingly hit-or-miss style. The point was to preserve the directness and spontaneity of his first rush of inspiration, to be as free and loose and expressive as possible. In old age Picasso had finally discovered how to take every liberty with space and form, colour and light, fact and fiction, time and place, not to mention identity.

Text : John Richardson, ‘L’Époque Jacqueline’ (1988), as cited in Martin Gayford and Karen Wright, eds., The Grove Book of Art Writing, London, Grove Press, 2000, p. 263. For more information, see the lecture delivered by Richardson on 24 April 1984, Picasso: Catch in the Late Work, available at https://www.guggenheim.org/finding-aids/file/picasso-catch-in-the-late-work-2-of-2-john-richardson, and the longer, slightly different talk he gave on the occasion of the Le dernier Picasso 1953–1973 exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou held from 17 February to 16 May 1988, available at https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en/program/calendar/event/cyn6Rja.


What was happening in 1965?

  • Picasso tries to stop the publication in France of ‘Life with Picasso’, a memoir written by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake.
  • The first US troops are sent to fight in Vietnam.
  • The Doors and PinkThe activist Malcolm X is assassinated in New York.Floyd bands are created.
  • Playwright and poet Thomas S. Eliot dies in London.

Related Works

Picasso's Universe