Sydney Picasso Returns to Wilmington to Talk about the Master’s Influence

The daughter-in-law of famed Spanish painter Pablo Picasso paid a visit to the Pilot School in Wilmington today where she spoke to students about the joys and limitless possibilities of art.

“Anything can be art today in the contemporary world. I know an artist who simply put a wheel on top of a chair and called it art,” she told students.

Sydney Russell Picasso grew up in Wilmington and attended the Miss Tatnall’s School (as it was called at the time), where she met her lifelong best friend Coo Carpenter Murray, whose mother Mary Kaye Carpenter founded The Pilot School. Picasso and her husband Claude Ruiz Picasso have lived in Paris for decades. But she was delighted to return to Delaware at the invitation of Murray to speak to students at the school.

Warm, engaging and passionate about art, Picasso provided insight into the life of one of the greatest, groundbreaking painters in history as only a family member could. She shared that Picasso created several paintings a day and meticulously recorded those which he planned to share in public or sell – personally signed and dated by the master. Those he intended to keep himself remained unsigned. She said the painter kept his favorite works for himself, many of which are now at the Picasso Museum in Paris. “They’re called Picasso’s Picassos because these were his very favorite works, and they were sort of like his children — his prodigal children. Sometimes a collector would send a picture back to get it signed, and Picasso would re-think the entire painting.”

The charismatic, flame-haired Ms. Picasso lives in Paris and is a board member of the Royal Drawing School (London), the International Councils of the Tate Modern and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. She was joined by Sam Sweet, the CEO and executive director of the Delaware Art Museum, in the school’s indoor stone amphitheater.

Ms. Picasso talked about some of the influences on her father-in-law’s work, including the fact that Pablo Picasso struggled to break through in the art world and was not well recognized until mid-life – his first museum showing was at 50. “Picasso was quite poor and somber much of his life, living in a grim dwelling, which led him to paint sometimes sad figures during his blue period, who were all very poor, thin and emaciated.”

Despite the deprivation, Sydney Picasso said the painter found ways to create and portray the world as he saw it, making it possible for others to also look at life from different vantage points, which may account for the durability of his legacy.

While Pablo Picasso lived virtually all of his adult life in France, his daughter-in-law shared that he missed the culture and friends he had in Spain, where he grew up. “I think this was a big part of his sadness and his nostalgia for Spain, a country he never visited after [the military dictator Francisco] Franco became the leader of Spain. He gave pictures to the museum there [in Spain], but he never went back.” Sydney Picasso said that in France, the painter surrounded himself with friends who were bullfighters, flamenco singers and dancers, and a crew of Spaniards that he kept around him to keep alive his fond memories of his homeland.

“Wilmington is a wonderful place to grow up,” she told the students. She remembers enjoying a field trip up to the Philadelphia Museum and taking French classes at Miss Tatnall’s School. “I can tell you that everything I had to face in life began with my foundation right here in Wilmington. My parents had this silly idea to send me to France when I was quite young, which at the time was a difficult thing to do. And I never came back, except to see you all.”

During the discussion, Pilot students, who have been learning about Pablo Picasso in class, pinned individual elements to a “Picasso-like” abstracted face on panels. The finished product will be on display in the school’s lobby for the month of May.

One of the painter’s more famous sayings was projected on a school wall as Ms. Picasso spoke, which said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

The Pilot School visitor encouraged her young audience to continue to create, explore and appreciate art for years to come. “It adds something to your lives – it really does.”

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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.