By Steve Martin
From the New Yorker, December 8, 2003
Picasso: Thank you. People seem to be very excited by the painting, and the test scores have been great.
E.C.: What was it like painting “Lady with a Fan”?
Picasso: Very, very exciting. I was excited by the prospect of painting it and working with so many exciting people, the paint people, the canvas stretcher. . .
E.C.: So it was a very exciting project for you.
Picasso: Yes, I was really excited. Sometimes I was more excited, and sometimes I was less excited . . .
E.C.: But you were always excited?
Picasso: Oh, yes, always excited. That’s a good way to put it.
E.C.: And the model?
Picasso: Oh, my God, I almost left her out. That’s hilarious. I’ve so admired her posing through the years and finally I got a chance to work with her. I actually loved going to the studio every day.
E.C.: Tell us what she’s like.
Picasso: Oh, she’s so down-to-earth. You would expect her to be aloof and distant, but she wasn’t like that at all.
E.C.: Were there sparks?
Picasso: Oh, boy, this is a tough interview! (Laughter) Actually we liked each other a lot, but that’s as far as it went. I have a rule about dating my models.
E.C.: We talked with her and she said, “Picasso was great to work with. We laughed and laughed.” What did you laugh about? Any anecdotes?
Picasso: Gee. Hmm. Oh, yeah. Once, I told her I needed her to be nude. Well, you should have seen the look on her face. Of course I told her immediately that I was just kidding.
E.C.: That’s hilarious.
Picasso: It was really, really funny.
E.C.: “Lady with a Fan” is so different from the other work you’ve been doing. Do you think your audience will accept it?
Picasso: Well, I really wanted to flex some new muscles and I hope the public will go along with me.
E.C.: There are a lot of other pictures opening on the same day. Matisse has “The Green Stripe,” and Vlaminck has a fine still-life. Are you worried about the competition?
Picasso: Well, I’m sure Matisse’s picture is very, very cute. And, basically, Vlaminck stinks.
E.C.: Whoa! Don’t hold back now—just say what you think!
E.C.: Why a fan?
Picasso: Oh, boy, everyone asks me that. I guess I didn’t want to call the picture “Lady with a Banana.” No, I’m kidding.
E.C.: Oh, my god, that’s hilarious.
Picasso: No, seriously, the fan was chosen because it is a symbol of femininity, because it balances the picture compositionally, and because I posed her hand in the classic religious position referencing Leonardo’s “Madonna of the Rocks,” except I wanted her to be holding a secular object.
E.C.: Uh-huh. (Pause) What’s next for a Pablo Picasso?
Picasso: Well, I would like to do some less serious paintings. “Lady with a Fan” is actually quite a profound picture, and I would like to stretch a bit and show that I don’t just do one thing.
E.C.: Thank you, Pablo Picasso. (Turns to camera) “Lady with a Fan” can be seen at the National Gallery for the next one thousand or so years.
Pablo, could you just look into the camera and say, “Hi, I’m Pablo Picasso, be sure to watch me on The Entertainment Channel!”
Picasso: Sure. Could I say hello to Gertrude Stein? ♦