Artists on Film / The Mystery of Picasso

Directed by Georges-Henri Clouzot, 1956, 78 min

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, one of the most admired French feature film directors of the 20th Century Le Mystere Picasso (1956) won the Best Documentary Prize at the Venice Film Festival. One of the first art documentaries released at the same length as a feature film it remains a classic for its combination of brilliantly accomplished set pieces of camera work, inventive filming techniques and for the performance Picasso delivered under Clouzot’s direction.

This entirely new kind of art documentary captures the moment and the mystery of creativity; for the film, Picasso created twenty artworks, ranging from playful black-and-white sketches to widescreen colour paintings. Using inks that bled through the paper, he rapidly created fanciful drawings that Clouzot was able to film from the reverse side, documenting their creation in real time. When the artist decided to paint in oils, the filmmaker switched to colour film and employed the magic of stop-motion animation. By contract, almost all of these paintings were destroyed when the film was completed. Unavailable for more than a decade, The Mystery of Picasso is a mesmerizing work of art in itself.

With an introduction by art-historian and filmmaker Robert McNab.