Proust, Picasso, and Prose Poetry: Swann’s Way as an Emptying of Impressions

“The thing that I want to insist upon is that Picasso’s gift is completely the gift of a painter and a draughtsman, he is a man who always has the need of emptying himself, of completely emptying himself, it is necessary that he should be greatly stimulated so that he could be active enough to empty himself completely.”

So says Gertrude Stein in her intimate, lyrical biography of Picasso, which is not so much a chronology of his life as it is a love letter to his artistry. Among many other things, she submits that Picasso’s creative impetus derived from a need to empty himself of certain reverberating impressions; he would become captivated, even tormented by an idea or image, and by painting, he would purge that image from his mind and be done with it.

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