This open letter to Picasso originally appeared in the June,
1956 issue of Preuves and is published with permission of
both its author and the editors.
This letter to you, Picasso, is not a personal letter. You are a genius, hence a part of our human commonwealth in the same way as beautiful structures of past ages, the paintings of the Louvre, or the sound of music transmitted through the centuries. That you are alive among us is only an accident thanks to your fine constitution and the resistance of your arteries which have allowed you to reach a venerable age. It was also a providential accident that you did not belong to one of those racial or national groups destined to be destroyed, along with their potential Picassos.
Your achievement has transformed you into a symbol, but your preference for white or red wine, or for rare or well-done meat will quickly be forgotten. Nonetheless, you share our passions and our errors. Like each of us you are responsible for what happens on our planet and your particular responsibility is measured by the distance between your renown and the anonymity of ordinary citizens.
During the years when painting was systematically being destroyed in the USSR and the “people’s democracies,” you lent your name to manifestos glorifying the regime of Stalin. At the same time, you scoffed at “socialist realism,” thereby proving that certain artistic methods are valid only where the arm of the police is long enough. You were right to take advantage of your privilege, but you seem to forget that is all it was! If there exists a solidarity between men for whom beauty is more than a subject of esthetic considerations, you refused it. But are you absolutely sure that, because of this refusal, you did not rob some young painter of the joy contained in a life of creative fulfillment? Or are you absolutely sure that geniuses are born only in civilized countries and not among the barbarians east of the Elbe?