I came across this quotation on page 145 of National Geographic Stunning Photographs. Google retrieved at least 100 results for it. Gunnar Nordstrom Gallery

Two particular works to be exhibited share historical similarities as well as juxtaposed iconography by two different Spanish artists. The first by Pablo Picasso is from 1922 and is a lovely dry point etching "Femme au Miroir" or "Woman looking onto a Mirror". Sitting nude, but reserved (much different than later works by Picasso also on display) a woman holds a mirror and gazes into it daydreaming of beauty, fashion and the future. Picasso said, "The hidden harmony is better than the obvious" as evident in this jewel of a print.

But this S.E. user couldn't find the primary source.

This may be a case where challenging the authenticity of the statement would have been appropriate. All sources I find for this post date publication in a 'quote book' in 2001, and the original can be linked to Heraclitus "a hidden harmony is better than an apparent one." quite a while before Picasso. – justCal

Did Picasso actually say this?


1 Answer 1


There's probably some artistic license in the NatGeo book in making that attribution.

What is certain is that the (1922) painting being discussed right before belongs to Picasso's classical period. Another (more) notable painting of his from this era is the Pipes of Pan, with a more obvious classical Greek theme.

Furthermore Picasso was (somewhat superficially) aware of the philosophies of classical Greece. In a biography that quotes/interviews eyewitnesses (Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington, p. 340), Picasso is attributed to have said at one point (to Javier Vilató)

I prefer Heraclitus to Plato.

Which may explain why someone would turn that kind of preference into a story of Picasso quoting/restating something that Heraclitus said.

(Now Huffington's work, including this book, has been questioned in terms of plagiarism, but ironically I couldn't find this bit about Picasso liking Heraclitus mentioned elsewhere... Someone may want to check Lydia Gasman's thesis, as she also interviewed relatives of Picasso, but this work is not easily available.)

(To add to the confusion, Picasso has a much more famous 1932 painting "Girl Before a Mirror" from his suprarealist period, but that's clearly not what's being discussed--the 1922 etching exists as well, and it's not supra-realist.)

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