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c. 1949

Picasso and a light pen

The legendary artist loved to experiment

The artistic cliché says that the subject of a painting is light itself. But, with these pictures, Picasso made it literally true.

It’s not massively surprising that playing around with a light pen would be up Picasso’s creative boulevard. He liked to experiment, and gave new meaning to the word ‘prolific.’

Take a guess at how many works of art Picasso created in his life…

Fifty. Thousand. Yes, 50,000 separate pieces – paintings, drawings, of course, but also sculptures, ceramics, tapestries – even rugs.

But the idea for these photographs came not from Picasso, but from Gjon Mili, the LIFE photographer sent to France to capture (on camera) Picasso, then aged 68.

Mili had played around with light and movement for a previous shoot for LIFE, fixing lights to the tips of the boots of an ice skater.

When Mili suggested Picasso check out the light pen, the artist agreed to give the gadget 15 minutes, and no more. But there was more.

In fact, so captivated was Picasso by the pen that he conducted (literally) five further sessions with the, I think its reasonable to assume, not-altogether-displeased Mili.

The end results became an exhibition at MOMA in New York City the following year.

Beyond the momentary trace of the tip of the pen, it wasn’t until the photographs were printed that Picasso actually saw what he had painted.

But when you look at them, bear one thing in mind. Beyond the momentary trace of the tip of the pen, it wasn’t until the photographs were printed that Picasso actually saw what he had painted.

1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images
1949
Gjon Mili / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

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