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Norman Mailer's Secret Hobby Was Trying to Draw Like Picasso

Writing was difficult for the author; drawing was joyful

Victor Drees/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In the aftermath of his split from his second wife, Adele Morales, Norman Mailer liked to spend Sundays taking his two young daughters to what he called "The Church of MoMA." They would invariably end up, his daughter Danielle Mailer recalled, in front of a Picasso painting. "He used words like 'genius,' 'brilliant,' and 'unique' about Picasso’s works," she wrote in an email—"descriptions he reserved for very few." In 1995, Mailer would write a book about Picasso; but few know that the writer created drawings inspired by Picasso's work throughout his life. Now, Mailer's drawings are on view to the public via a new online platform, POBA, which aims "to preserve, showcase, and promote the work of artists who died without full recognition of their talents." Entitled "Picasso Got To Me," this rarely-seen collection contains almost twenty of Mailer's line drawings from the 1970s and 1980s, all of faces or torsos.

"If the acts of writing and drawing reveal anything about Norman," his daughter Danielle wrote, "it might be this: He had the capacity to be deeply committed to his work and at the same time, he was able to be completely spontaneous." Writing, for Mailer, was a laborious, ongoing process; drawing was instantaneous and fluid. When she stood over his studio table to watch him draw, Danielle remembered, she saw a man "uncharacteristically relaxed" after a long day of writing, "wearing an expression of pure delight." These drawings are the product of that delight.

Ink on Paper, 1974
Open Face, 1985
Parted Hair, 1985
Untitled 7, 1985
Untitled 9, 1985