When LIFE Magazine photographer Gjon Mili visited Pablo Picasso in the South of France in 1949, the two began work on the captivating images you see here… and it all started quickly. LIFE wrote in its January 30, 1950 issue, in which these images first appeared, “Picasso gave Mili 15 minutes to try one experiment.” The results from the short session must have made a good impression because he worked with Mili on five more.
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Known as Picasso’s “Light Drawings,” the images capture the artist drawing with a small electric light in a darkened room. In his art he was known for his excellent use of the line, using a minimal amount of detail to create highly expressive results… and here he hypnotically demonstrates that talent, drawing his iconic centaurs, people and even signing his name. His figure, in focused concentration, appears in frozen poses behind the drawings, almost as if we could look behind his famous paintings and see the process of their creation. For more on this historical meeting of two artistic talents, see LIFE Magazine.