Art Lies and Truth

Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth. – Pablo Picasso


Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait
Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, 1901. Collection of Musée Picasso, Paris.

Deep Thought Thursday

What did Picasso mean by this?
Where is the lie in art?
What is truth?

Share this post

Recognition of our accomplishments
is fuel for future goals.


17 thoughts on “Art Lies and Truth”

  1. To me, the obvious is that, since art (visual, at least) is the represented object of the artist’s vision, it will never be ‘the real thing’. It will be a ‘lie’, in a sense, which CAN be a epiphany , and lead to insight that will far transcend the ‘truth’. It is the lie that enables us to realize the truth. So well put. Art will bring a heightened experience of truth, although it isn’t literally manifested. (????) That’s my take on this quote. C.

  2. This is one of my favorite Picasso quotes. What it says to me is that work not to represent what you see, but rather make an icon that reveals the universal. This is my goal.

  3. Everyone knows a different truth, even though experiences leading up to that discovery may be shared. We all process reality so differently. And art is the one form of expression that allows the individual to express the truth – theirs or someone else’s – without rebuttal, but simply to exist.

  4. Jacqueline Webster

    When an artist makes a work he/she is editing reality, picking and chosing what they want to express in the final work. Not showing the subject in its entirety is the lie; stripping the subject down to express a singular idea or attribute is the truth.

  5. My take on Picasso is that he was a realist in the philosophical sense, if not in the artistic definition. It is one of the reasons I enjoy his work. This is one of my favorite quotes, as well. I’ve always seen it as his version of Socrates’ premise that “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”
    It is quite enjoyable and amusing to me that of his many quotes, this one will either bring out the ‘artspeak’ about tapping into a universal, collective consciousness, or serve as a simple call to realization and subsequent action.
    This beautiful and evocative circular play on words is a shining example of the very thing he speaks about – a piece of artful wordcraft which reminds us that all art is artifice, that we made it up from *personal* experience. Just as surely, truth is also personal – and artifice.
    It is a call to realize that universal truth does not *yet* exist, only personal truth. That sharing our individual artistic expression is the only hope we have of creating anything we can even remotely describe as universal.

  6. Oh look! There’s a can of worms. Let’s open it. I think our buddy Pablo was stringing words together for dramatic effect. If one uses the words in the common sense (which is necessary for any real communication) then the quote is non-sense. However, if one wants to redefine the words into meanings unrecognizable, then it can mean anything to anybody and in the end communicates nothing which is non-sense. It appears to be an amateur attempt to be profound.

    1. Ah, but “This is not a pipe”
      A piece of flat canvas with paint daubed on it is not a real person (lie), yet we can recognize the face and sometimes even detect thoughtfulness or pain.(truth)

  7. The “lie” is the artist’s interpretation and the “truth” is what remains on the canvas, the paper, stone, wood, etc. The same can be said for other forms of creative expression, be it theatre, dance, music or literature.

  8. Just wanted to let you know that your email subscription is not working. I have your book and love it. I wanted to subscribe to your blog via email but sadly the connection is not working.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Morgen: Did you click on “Subscribe by Email”? I just tested it and it worked for me. I’m wondering if you, instead, put your email in the search box below the Subscribe link.

  9. I am a country girl with a simple view of life. If I take that statement literally, it makes no sense to me, because I believe art is not a/the lie.It is about one’s perception, and everyone has a different perception. To an individual, his/her perception is truth for him/her. Art may change how something is perceived, but it still doesn’t make it a lie., nor does it make it truth. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, and so is ugly, drab, or horrific. We are all able to realize truth, with or without art. Art can be food for thought, eye candy, or an investment. It can also be the necessity of life for someone who must create it. Pardon me, if I just don’t get it. I am interested in learning, but some of the comments leave me wondering what the commentors are talking about. I liked Kimberly Santini’s Comment, it was insightful. I welcome any enlightenment, and thank you in advance for the honor of being able to participate in this discussion.

  10. Art is not the object, nor is it itself an object–it is an experience. Art engages us, like a magician does, by showing us what we are seeing with devices that we don’t see (i.e, shapes in place of things, lines in place of boundaries and movement, spaces around as well as within things, color instead of light). We are intrigued by the process, so that we become enamored of its message.

  11. Deirdre Jean-Baptiste

    Perhaps Picasso meant that art is but a representation of what we experience in reality. What we experience is a whole without much deeper thought. As an artists, shades and tints of colors determined by light are explored, various shapes are explored, expressions are explored deeper (what makes one look sad, happy, etc.)…

    Reality becomes more complete when forced to explore deeper the shades and tints of blades of grass or leaves on a tree for example.

    The truth may not be seen in its entirety perhaps, until we explore more deeply when recreating it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

You did more than you think you did in 2023! Get The Artist’s Annual Review 2023* PDF to reflect on your accomplishments.

4 life areas, 57 total prompts

*This review is a PDF written for the end of the year, but you can take stock anytime. You will also receive updates about new podcasts, blog posts, and programs. You can opt out at any time.

Privacy + Terms | About the Annual Review

Can I keep you posted about the Activate Your Year planning workshop coming up January 9-10, 2024?

You will also start receiving my almost-weekly news for your art business if you aren’t already. You can unsubscribe at anytime.
Privacy + Terms