Pablo Picasso died in 1973, but his paintings and legacy live on. Sydney Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law, recently visited with the students of Delaware’s Pilot School to talk about that legacy and the importance of art in school.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Picasso; the Delaware native grew up and attended school in Wilmington.
“I went to the Tatnall School which was Mrs. Tatnall’s school [for Girls] at the time,” she said.
Her parents sent her to France to live and study —and that’s where she met her future husband, Picasso’s son.
An author, an artist and an archaeologist — who studied, sketched and engraved prehistoric figures in North America — Sydney and Claude Picasso met in 1973.
It was the year Pablo Picasso died, and his son had returned from New York where he had been working as a photographer.
After their marriage, they began, “settling the Picasso estate, which was like opening a treasure trove,” she said.
An urban legend has it that, while in college, Picasso and his roommate were so poor that they would burn some of his paintings in the fireplace to stay warm.
But Sydney Picasso, who dismissed that notion, said the artist kept copious notes on the backs of all of his works detailing when he worked on them. And he kept just about anything he ever painted.
After sorting through all of those works, his family organized a major exhibition in New York in 1981. Many pieces had never been seen publicly before, and that show “opened the sort of Picasso chapter of the ’80s and ’90s,” she said.
Back in Wilmington, Sydney Picasso talked about a lifelong friend who was one of the people behind the Pilot School. She has followed the school’s progress from its former location to its new site, and she was visiting to see the finished building.
The students had been learning about Pablo Picasso’s work for months, leading up to a big class exhibit and hearing from Sydney Picasso.
“They’ve been working four or five months on it,” she said. (You can see samples of the work the kids did in the photo slideshow below.)
During her talk to the entire school body, a select group of kids was busy building a Picasso-inspired display off to the side. Using recycled pizza boxes for facial elements, the young artists placed eyes, ears, noses and mouths on a large display.
“We have been inspired by the work of Pablo Picasso, and it has been really fun doing it,” said Ethan, one of the students.
Another student said her favorite part was doing the faces, “and one of the faces I did was spring themed, because I wanted it to be spring.”
One of the reasons for all this was to show the importance of arts education to the kids and those in attendance. Pablo Picasso himself went to art school, and his father was an arts teacher.
“It’s inspirational, but it enables children to have a dimension that they didn’t know was there,” Sydney Picasso said. “It gives them something that they own.”
The kids followed the lead of their imaginations, and no two of the Picasso faces they made were the same.
“You could have different colors of all sorts, and they could be weirdly put on things, and that would still look good cause that’s what this was kind of going for,” said Siobhan, another student.
“It’s a great skill, and it’s really fun, and it could be a great career when you grow up,” Ethan said of the experience. “A great and really fun career.”
“Art is a way of expressing yourself in a lot of ways. Maybe that day you got a bruise, so you draw a picture of a Band-Aid. Art is also fun, it lets you be creative,” Siobhan said.
Sydney Picasso said she was glad to see the distinctive quality of each work.
“Each human being is a unique creature. I think we have to realize that being different is not being special or odd or not fitting in, its really about each of us being a unique human individual,” she said.
That message seemed to resonate with the children. They may not take up art as a career, but they sure enjoy it.
“Art is probably my favorite subject in school in fact,” Ethan said.