How well known were Picasso and Freud in 1912?

How famous were Picasso and Freud in 1912? Would the average person at least have heard of them? What about the aristocratic British and american class of people?

By 1912 Picasso was very well known in Parisian artistic circles: Picasso, Braque and Matisse were squarely established as the three most advanced figures at this point. There’s already a significant body of other artists who’re busily imitating Cubism. Picasso’s works are finding significant markets in (especially) Germany, Russia and to some extent the US. But that’s because dealers are promoting his work to discerning collectors. Outside those fairly narrow circles, he’s unknown to the public at large. So, for instance, in the UK he was probably unknown outside of Bloomsbury.
Oddly, he did have a brush with outright notoriety in 1911, when the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. Investigations revealed that one of his lowlife friends had been nicking antique sculptures from the museum and for a while this was the police’s hot lead. His very close friend Apollinaire got implicated and was arrested with much attendant publicity. But I don’t think the police ever quite realised that the thief, who was stealing for the thrill of it, was passing the works on to Picasso and I don’t think his name ever quite made the press in the matter.

I think the point at which Picasso starts becoming a public figure is really at the end of WWI when he falls in with the Ballets Russes (Parade etc.). It’s Diaghilev’s established PR machine that presents him to high society across Europe and to the wider public as the leading star of the art world.

On Freud, one crucial step in the expansion of his fame is the invitation to lecture in the US in 1909. That’s him becoming an international figure, at least in academic circles.

Foreign chaps with weird theories and even weirder paintings? I shouldn’t think so. Not quite the thing, doncherknow.

But the upper-crust intellectuals of the Bloomsbury set certainly had, since they had been much involved in introducing modernism into the UK, and Virginia Woolf said as a result that ‘‘On or about December 1910 human character changed,’’

By 1912 some Picasso paintings and drawings had been exhibited in London and had, as a result, been the subject of a certain amount of unfavourable public comment. So not exactly famous, but not completely unknown either.

Happening to be reading The Wolf-Man and Sigmund Freud (1972; Penguin, 1973), edited by Muriel Gardiner. Much of which are the various memoirs by Sergei Pankejeff, the Russian patient who was famously analysed by Freud. He opens one of his accounts with:

One data point.

I searched the Cleveland Plain Dealer archives for “Picasso” in 1912 and got a single mention. It was an article about child artists and compared their drawings to the “what-you-may-call-'ems of Picasso, Max Weber, Marsden Hartley and other incurable post impressionist artists”.

Freud got 3 mentions and mentioned recent discoveries.


A search of the [London] Times is equally interesting.

The first reference to Picasso is a very brief mention in an article in April 1911 about the exhibition in Paris by the Society of Independent Artists. Basically it just mentions that it includes a ‘portrait’ by him. There is no indication that readers were expected to recognise the name. But the various London exhibitions in 1912 did receive fairly detailed coverage.

The first references to Freud are from 1913. A report in August 1913 about a medical conference in London mentions that a whole session had been devoted to Freud’s theories. Moreover, the report on the British Association conference in Birmingham held the following month has three long paragraphs on the session held there on the same subject. (But the big news story from that year’s conference was clearly the reactions to the discovery of Piltdown Man.)