Monday, 1 August 2011

Signature as insurance certificate

In her book “Life with Picasso” Françoise Gilot remember a visit she made with Picasso to the vaults he had for his paintings, at one of the Parisian bank on the Boulevard des Italiens.

Françoise Gilot noticed that the paintings in the vault were all signed where Picasso kept only unsigned canvases in the atelier.

“I had noticed that he kept only unsigned canvases in the atelier. I asked him about that. "As long as a picture isn't signed," he said, "it's harder to dispose of if it's stolen. And there are other reasons, too. A signature is often an ugly blob that distracts from the composition once it's there. That's why I generally sign a picture only when it's sold. Some of these are paintings that I sold years ago and have bought back. The rest—well, as long as a painting hangs around the atelier unsigned, I feel I can always do something about it if I'm not completely satisfied. But when I've said everything I had to say in it and it's ready to start a life of its own, then I sign it and send it over here."”

So, Picasso used his signature in a conventional and unconventional way:

  • As most artists do, he signed his work when he was completely satisfied with it. The signature acts as a “closure”. An unsigned work can always be re-worked.
  • In Picasso’s case, the signature was also an anti-theft mechanism. Only sold works leaving the studio were signed.
Related resources

If you are in the US (Amazon affiliate link)

Life With Picasso by Françoise Gilot

If you are in the United Kingdom (Amazon affiliate link)

Life with Picasso by Françoise Gilot


Rolina said...

A very interesting and thought-provoking post, I hadn't thought about the insurance aspect of the signature, particularly.

Eddie Hudson said...

I had not considered the insurance aspect. I often consider the "artist's line of thinking:" that, when I sign it, I no longer want to touch the piece. Of course, it doesn't prevent me from doing something similar!