I had the extraordinary opportunity last week to visit the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. The museum houses one of the largest collections of his early works, and gives the visitor an excellent chronicle of Picasso’s development as an artist, from his teenage years all the way up through his later masterpieces.
I’ve had different encounters with Picasso throughout my life, but this exhibit was unique in allowing me to see the emergence of his voice and in particular, how his example is a challenge to us all, whether in our art or in our lives.
One of my important takeaways from this visit was that Picasso was not always Picasso. This may sound obvious, but as someone who has gone through the process of trying to find her own voice as a writer, seeing first hand how Picasso’s voice struggled to emerge from some of his early works resonated in a way it never had before.
As part of this process, Picasso played with multiple styles – and mastered them all – but it would take years of effort before he found the brush strokes that were uniquely his. And when his own voice finally broke through, it was a Revolution. Not only for him as an artist, but for the world and history of art. Picasso transformed the canvas into a place without limits, an open playground for imagination, an opportunity to reconstruct the very nature of reality – if only we dared to do so.
Most of us don’t have the talent to be a Picasso, but I firmly believe all of us have the potential to undertake the same journey with the same courage. Like Picasso, each of us has a unique voice struggling to break through the old patterns. Each of us has an ability to look at our world in a brand new way. Above all – and I believe this is one of Picasso’s most important messages – each of us has the capacity for playfulness inside our passion and even inside our pain.
So today’s lesson, from the Picasso Museum through me to you, is this: Dare to accept Picasso’s challenge. Set your voice free. See beyond convention. Ignore the borders. Create your own art, your own life, and paint your unique message across the universe.
Who knows? The next Revolution might follow in your wake.