Picasso as a Book Artist

Picasso as a Book Artist

Picasso as a Book Artist

Picasso as a Book Artist

Excerpt

A study dealing with Picasso as illustrator calls for a few introductory remarks on the principles underlying the illustrated book in general. We shall therefore turn very briefly to the origins of book illustration, approaching them without any preconceived ideas, in the same way that the modern movement in art, which numbers Picasso among its most eminent exponents, tries to grapple with all problems of artistic creation.

In our civilization the book conveys information, but it has not been used for this purpose at all times and everywhere. Originally it may have served as an instrument of magic, just as prehistoric cave-paintings are interpreted as magical incantations and just as Ethiopian magical scrolls with their texts and illustrations were used until recently -- and indeed are perhaps still being used -- not to convey information or as a means of edification, but for purely occult purposes. In the Western world such works are an insignificant exception. Even in the occult books of medieval and later sorcerers the illustrations are generally intended to clarify the instructions given to the adept.

Illustrated books in the form familiar to us are the descendants of medieval illuminated codices. In some of these, pictures were added to elucidate the text where author or scribe regarded the words alone as insufficient, others were decorated for purposes of ostentation. We must have no illusions as to their origin: the patrons who commissioned these codices were not usually prompted by a deep love of art, but in most instances by no more than a wish to add to their prestige with friend and foe by the possession of something valuable and extraordinary. For this purpose an illustrated manuscript was particularly suitable, since most of those whom the owner wished to impress were illiterate and susceptible only to pictures: the more sumptuous the gilding, the greater was the effect. Those patrons who could not afford extensive illumination contented . . .

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