Friday, 05 December 2014
The Picasso in the Bookshelf
By Wendl Kornfeld
I can’t swear this story is true but I believed it when my now long-lost friend Bob told it to me back in 1971.
In his youth, Bob was mad for Picasso the artist, Picasso the myth. When he was about 11 or 12, he went to the post office and got a money order for a small amount - I recall it was less than $20 - but still a fairly large sum for a young lad back in the early 1960s.
He penned a heartfelt note to Pablo Picasso expressing his deep admiration. He acknowledged that he knew that the artist charged a great deal of money for his work but hoped he’d have compassion for a young admirer and draw anything - a squiggle would do - send it back in the self-addressed return envelope and accept the money order as payment in advance.
Bob was pretty sure of the name of the town where Picasso lived, sent the letter and money order off and hoped something wonderful would happen.
Years passed. Bob never heard from Picasso. He was disappointed yet realized that the whole adventure had been dodgy from the start with probably little chance of success. The letter might never have been delivered; perhaps he had the address all wrong. Why would someone as great as Picasso care about this stranger who deigned to send him a measly few American bucks?
When Bob was in his late teens, still living with his family, his mother died and he had to go through and clean out many of her belongings. And avid reader, he had pored through her collection of books. And in one of them he found an unopened letter addressed to himself, postmarked many years earlier, sent from Europe!
This was a shock, to say the least, and he ripped opened the envelope only to find his money order still there, not cashed, and that was all.
He was crestfallen until he turned it over and there was a little sketch, not much more than a couple squiggles, drawn by - Pablo Picasso.
Bob’s explanation for all this is that he was at camp that summer when the letter arrived and his mother had most likely just put it in the book she was reading, planning to give it to him when he came home. Somehow, she forgot all about the letter and unwittingly shelved the book.
I’ve never been a big fan of Picasso’s work but have a warm spot for him in my heart because of the generosity he showed this kid in Brooklyn so many years ago.
And I continue to riffle through every single one of my books before I pass them along.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]