Picasso and perspective

Well into the chapter "schooling the imagination" in the book Sparks of Genius, Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein relay the following tale about art and reality. I thought I'd pass it along because it captures the idea of perspective, a thinking skill I referenced yesterday, so well.

For the scientist, experimentation keeps imagination from going astray; for the artist, it is a dialectical dilemma. When [writer Ursula] Le Guin insists, 'Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth,' she might just as easily say, 'Consider carefully what this fictive lens lets you see.' Our perceptions of Reality depend upon the kind of quality of Illusions we conjure. This is what Picasso meant when he said, 'Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.' Like so many artists and scientists, he understood that imagination does not simply discover truth, it shapes it. A wonderful anecdote concerning the painter illustrates the point. One day, Picasso took a train trip and, as happens on such occasions, engaged in conversation with the gentleman seated next to him. When the man learned to whom he was speaking, he began grumbling about the ways in which art distorts reality. According to one account, 'Picasso demanded to know what was a faithful representation of reality. The man produced a wallet-sized photo and said, there! That's a real picture -- that's what my wife really looks like. Picasso looked at it carefully from several angles, turning it up and down and sideways, and said, She's awfully small. And flat.'

I've had occasion recently to reread Sparks of Genius, which is a terrific book on the ways we think creatively. The subtitle is The 13 Thinking Tools of the World's Most Creative People. Some of the tools - observation, abstraction, dimensional thinking and body thinking - I've written about previously.  Other's such as playing, empathizing, transforming will be the subject of future posts I'm sure.