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Found: Pablo Picasso’s ‘How To Draw’ Books For His Daughter | Pablo Picasso

TThese are the ultimate “how to draw” books for young children created by Dotting Dad, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter has discovered an extraordinary collection of sketchbooks used by the artist to teach her eldest daughter to draw and paint.

Animals, birds, clowns, acrobats, horses and pigeons – Picasso filled the pages with funny scenes – which will delight any child and adult.

Maya Ruiz-Picasso created them when she was five and seven years old. In a few pages, the little girl makes impressive attempts to imitate the master. She graded her father’s work by writing the number “10” in the circus scene to show her approval.

He painted two charming images of a fox longing for grapes – inspired by the fable of the sour grapes by 17th-century fabulist Jean de la Fontaine. Fox and grapes – and Maya painted one of them. Without lifting the pencil from the paper, he drew simple but beautiful eagles in one movement, conveying to her his love of form and clean line.

The never-before-seen collection includes exquisite origami sculptures of birds, who brought magic to life from exhibition invitation cards.

His granddaughter, Diana Widmayer-Ruiz-Picasso, discovered the works by accident while looking through family items in storage. Intrigued, he showed them to his mother, now 86, whose memories came flooding back.

Pablo Picasso's daughter Maya, right, with French actress Vera Clouzot at the Cannes art exhibition in 1955.
Pablo Picasso’s daughter Maya, right, with French actress Vera Clouzot at the Cannes art exhibition in 1955. Photograph: Bettman Archive

Widmeyer-Ruiz-Picasso said Observer: “She said, ‘Of course, those are my sketchbooks when I was little’. We are very visual in the family so immediately she was immersed in that moment. It was a very moving moment, because not only are you talking about a great artist but it made it very human. I was excited. Then I I got emotional.

Picasso, who died in 1973, was taught to draw by his father, a drawing professor, with Maya “so it came naturally to him,” his granddaughter said: “There’s a beautiful page where he draws a bowl and she’s drawing a bowl.

“Sometimes she’s doing a picture and he’s doing another, showing the right way to do it. Sometimes they depict different scenes. At other times, he would draw a dog or a hat. Sometimes they use an entire page to draw a particular subject. At other times, he paints some scenes, scenes from the circus. It is very interesting.

Maya especially remembers that during World War II, colored pencils and notebooks were in short supply: “That’s why my father wrote in my exercise books and colored with my pencils. I still have fond memories of those moments when we met in the kitchen to paint together. It was the only warm place in the apartment.

A page from Pablo Picasso's sketchbook found by his granddaughter.
A page from Pablo Picasso’s sketchbook found by his granddaughter. Photograph: Mark Domage © Private collection

Widmeyer-Ruiz-Picasso is an art historian, curator and jewelry designer who has published his latest book, Picasso is a wizardExploring his superstitions and belief in magic.

He described the discovery of the sketchbooks as “fortunate” because he was co-curating a major exhibition for the Musée Picasso-Paris, born of his passionate love for Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom he met over his close bond with his first daughter. 1927 when she was just 17 and he was 28 years her senior.

Exhibition, Maya Ruiz-Picasso, daughter of Pablo, Runs until December 31 and is showing for the first time many of Maya’s portraits, personal possessions and photographs, as well as sketchbooks and origami sculptures.

It is unclear whether the origami birds were made from invitation cards for his own shows. The granddaughter said: “I did not want to open his work.”

In the book accompanying the exhibition, he writes: “Looking at Picasso’s canvas, I thought, ‘A child could have done that!’ Many artistic revolutions of the 20th century were greeted with ridicule and scandal, it is true, but in the case of Picasso there is a hint of truth in that judgment. As his first daughter Maya recalls, ‘the mystery of life, and therefore of childhood, always filled my father with interest’.

An origami bird made by Pablo Picasso for his daughter from exhibition invitation cards.
An origami bird made by Pablo Picasso for his daughter from exhibition invitation cards. Photograph: Adam Rzepka © Private collection

He adds: “Searching for a pictorial language that would break the tired codes of academic realism, Picasso borrowed extensively from the unruly lines of children’s drawings. While Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Matisse focused on the graphic and pictorial naivete of children’s drawings, Picasso placed more emphasis on elements that upset figurative conventions, namely, distortion and deformity.

Didier Oettinger, deputy director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Center Pompidou, is currently curating a Picasso exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, in collaboration with the Musée Picasso-Paris. He said these sketchbooks reflect the artist’s childhood fascination with: “Who learned from whom?”

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