Sign Here!


“Some artists’ signatures are self-expression, some are design elements, and some are just fun

One day in Antibes, not long after the war, Picasso was treating a group of friends to lunch at a restaurant. As the lunch went on and on, and his guests were getting restless, Picasso—famously a bit of a cheapskate about small things—finally requested the bill. When it came, he did a little drawing on it and handed it to the restaurateur, saying, “How about I give you that?” The restaurateur replied, “How wonderful! But maître, do you mind signing it?” Picasso answered, “I’m buying the meal, not the restaurant.”

Jack Flam, author of the recent Matisse and Picasso: The Story of Their Rivalry and Friendship (Westview Press), relates this story—probably apocryphal, he notes—to illustrate what he calls the “power of the signature.”

Interest in the artist’s signature didn’t begin with Picasso. Artists have been signing their works since the Renaissance, sometimes placing a name or a monogram in a conspicuous place, sometimes hiding it so the viewer has to search for it. Just what does a signature mean to the artist—and to the beholder or the scholar? And what does it mean, as in the story about Picasso (who frequently signed his paintings), for posterity? “

Sign Here!
By Mary Haus

[Thanks Alex!]