The story goes that when photographer Gjon Mili visited Picasso’s studio in 1949, he showed the artist these photos he’d taken in 1945 of Carol Lynne skating with flashlights embedded in her boots:
Mili suggested Picasso draw with a flashlight in a darkened room. What happened next, as detailed in LIFE, Jan 30, 1950:
Picasso gave Mili 15 minutes to try one experiment. He was so fascinated by the result… that he posed for five sessions, projecting 30 drawings of centaurs, bulls, Greek profiles and his signature…. Mili took his photographs in a darkened room, using two cameras, one for side view, another for front view…. By leaving the shutters open, he caught the light streaks swirling through space. By setting off a 1/10,000-second strobe light, he caught Picasso’s intense, agile figure as it flailed away at the drawings.
You can see their further experiments, many in color, with Picasso playing with drawing in 3-D, here.
Mili did the light trick with many other kinds of artists:
There are lots of his curiosities in the Mili LIFE archives. Here’s an image of a housewife ironing from a Sept. 9, 1946 article on “Easier Housekeeping”:
Here’s a picture of Mili from the table of contents:
Going through the LIFE archives is a total trip. I feel like somebody could write a whole book based solely on the juxtaposition of these two images and their captions. (“Squatting in the darkness, Picasso draws a distorted spatial centaur.” “Pattern of light streaks shows how an efficient housewife makes a bed.”)
More on Mili: “Hands in Motion,” and his books: Photographs and Recollections, Picasso’s 3rd Dimension, and The Magic of the Opera