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Great Encounters #47: When Ella Fitzgerald chose not to meet Pablo Picasso


“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. This edition describes the time Ella Fitzgerald chose to pass on an opportunity to meet Pablo Picasso.




  Ella Fitzgerald


      Pablo Picasso                                                                                               


In his biography of jazz impresario Norman Granz, Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice, author Tad Hershorn writes briefly about a meeting that never took place between Ella Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso. 

 Granz  was a major collector of art and a friend of Picasso’s, who, according to Picasso biographer John Richardson “liked jazz, or more accurately, he liked the idea of jazz.”  Hershorn writes that Richardson “must have appreciated Granz’s style and the glamour of show business attached to him,” although Hershorn disputes that notion, writing that “Granz recalled that Picasso knew of his activities as a promoter only in the broad sense.”  In a taped conversation that Hershorn quotes from in his book, Granz said that Picasso “knew who was a world championship boxer, and he kept up with everything, and watched television, but there were certain things he didn’t care about.”

According to Hershorn, “Someone who shared this indifference to celebrity was Ella Fitzgerald, who turned aside an invitation to meet Picasso at teatime when she had a day off in Juan-les-Pins.  ‘I’m busy.  I’m darning my stockings, and I have some other things I’m sewing, so I can’t go.’”  When told of this, Picasso, according to Hershorn, “roared with laughter” and reacted by saying “That’s great…Now I really want to meet her!”  Hershorn concludes by writing that “Granz added that Picasso had never seen so much as a photograph of Fitzgerald when he did a well-known sketch of her on a blank page of an art catalog on March 28, 1970, which Granz soon gave her.  ‘He had no idea what she looked like,’ Granz said.  ‘But in his own genius way, the picture was perfect.’”





Post inspired by the book Norman Granz:  The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice, by Tad Hershorn











Ella Fitzgerald and Norman Granz, 1964



Pablo Picasso and Granz, late 1960’s