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Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin

My experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits

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Did Pablo Picasso Paint Fakes? The Question of Creativity.

November 17th, 2015

Episode 168 of 397 episodes

For some reason, I keep thinking about a story I read several years ago, in Arthur Koestler’s book, The Act of Creation. This anecdote caught my attention because it was about a subject that interests me — the mysterious nature of creativity. Plus it had a certain koan-like quality, and boy, do I love a good koan. This story sounds apocryphal, but Koestler says it’s 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 one of my common themes. And in other ...

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