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Pablo Picasso. Picasso was the Spanish cubist artist who sketched, sculpted, and painted his way into prominence in the early twentieth century. On the rare occasion, he painted live portraits. One such instance was his painting of Gertrude Stein, one of America’s foremost authors of a bygone era.

Stein was born in Oakland, California. She was educated at Radcliffe College and also studied at John Hopkins University. For most of her life she lived in Paris and there she would write.

To many, Gertrude’s prose was unintelligible. To the elite, her words were sublime. “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Or, “When they are alone, they want to be with others, and when they are with others, they want to be alone. After all human beings are like that.”

My attention however is not so much focused on Gertrude Stein or upon her words or her life’s story, but on that encounter she had with the great artist, Pablo Picasso. During the winter of 1905-1906, Gertrude Stein sat for the exceptional portrait to be painted by the master.

Ninety times she sat before the canvas. Ninety times, Picasso grew frustrated. Finally, in frustration Picasso said, “I can’t see you any longer when I look at you.”

So he packed up his brushes, paints, and canvasses and returned home to Spain. There, he would continue working on the portrait of Gertrude Stein. By spring, it was largely finished. In the fall, the painting was unveiled.

Onlookers were surprised. Gertrude Stein was a young woman when the master painted her. Yet, the face staring from the canvas was that of a wizened woman wearing a thoughtful, earnest face.

Eventually a lone voice courageously remarked to Picasso that Gertrude didn’t look like her portrait. Picasso replied simply, “She will one day.” Indeed, as time passed Gertrude became the image of Picasso’s portrait.

Any artist can paint what is. Good artists can paint what once was. But, only masters can paint what shall be.

Today, I look into faces of partially completed canvasses. And I pray that the Master will allow me to catch a glimpse of what He sees for your life. I pray that you do not become frustrated or disheartened with the thorns in your life, because they are being used for not as you are, not as you were, but as you someday shall be. . . . . .that is the purpose of the thorns. Adapted from Preaching For A New Millenium series of sermons.

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