An Ekphrastic piece, sort of…

From somewhere in the depths of my memory, I recalled watching a black and white movie of Picasso painting on a piece of glass, the camera filming his every assured stroke and wink and grin. I couldn’t tell you whether I first saw this on PBS, or in a darkened classroom at some out-of-pocket moment in my childhood. The repeated flashing of this memory, in some (day)dreams and at the end of my pen, led me to finding “Visite à Picasso” [“A Visit with Picasso”] by Paul Haesaerts, a Belgian filmmaker, artist, and historian. Here’s the poem that memory and film inspired, and then after, the actual documentary for your consideration.

Filming Picasso Paint Backwards on a Sheet of Glass

But does he really? It only seems so
	as we gaze through the looking glass
		the assured movements of the man
whose brush dips into paint and knows
exactly where to begin, a single
	stroke zipping up one side of the
		plexi, then languidly down the
	other. thin lines of acrylic or oil
quickly form a bird, then 
	another--an owl? a falcon? a swallow?
see the camera jump and the glass is
		clear again, blank as canvas
	and now vase, and flowers--chrysanthemums? lilies?--
feels like home. see the pastoral scene
	the goat and the shepherd, fluting and idling
		beneath the tree, a nymph floating
	and dancing
in the glassy spring air, bright
	and so crisp. we see him
		peck and wink, that giveaway grin
	giving himself away
in what might be hide-and-
	seek studio peek-
	and now see how there
are bulls, and next
	a windexed doorway or full-length
		mirror. long lingering strokes pattern
	a nude, tall and leggy before us,
churns and whirls of breasts, tresses freshly brushed/fleshed
	out, a paint-stroke smile, and finally 
a tulip substitution that plants
		everything in the imagination,
	the blossom and bloom
of a flickering black-and-white
	movie magic


©David Siller – 2021

A brief, helpful article about this film can be found here