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Picasso and Cubism
Picasso, Pablo. Family of Saltimbanques,
1905 oil on canvas, 2.128 x 2.296 m
(83 3/4 x 90 3/8 in.)
The move to Paris
Picasso finally made the decision to move permanently to Paris in the spring of 1904, and his work reflects a change of spirit and especially a change of intellectual and artistic currents. The traveling circus and saltimbanques became a subject he shared with a new and important friend, Guillaume Apollinaire. To both the poet and the painter these rootless wandering performers ("Girl Balancing on a Ball," 1905; "The Actor," 1905) became a kind of evocation of the artist's position in modern society. Picasso specifically made this identification in "Family of Saltimbanques" (1905), where he assumes the role of Harlequin and Apollinaire is the strongman (according to their mutual friend, the writer André Salmon).
Ife 13th Century
Benin 14th-15th Century
Benin 15th-16th Century
Benin 17th-19th Centuries
According to the Tate Museum. (http://www.tate.org.uk/imap/pages/animated/keyterms.htm)
PrimitivismAt the beginning of the twentieth century France, like most European countries, was a colonial power. Attitudes towards non-western countries, particularly African and Oceanic, were a mixture of fascination and disdain. The people of these countries and their cultures were labelled as ‘primitive’ and associated with often conflicting stereotypes such as savagery, nobility, simplicity, exoticism, mystery and paganism. Avant garde writers, philosophers and artists were inspired by ‘primitive’ art. They were disillusioned by the culture and values of their own society which they saw as corrupt and exhausted of ideas. In contrast, ‘primitive’ art seemed physically direct and emotionally charged. It was at once ancient and completely new and it pointed the way to systems of representation other than the naturalism that dominated academic art. The phenomenon of Primitivism also saw a reassessment of some of the first principles of art. What is it for? How does it affect us? How do we communicate through art? However the interest of artists in non-Western cultures was primarily formal and superficial rather than anthropological. Few had a sophisticated grasp of the civilizations from which they were borrowing.Matisse and Picasso were both interested in 'primitive art' but they were attracted to different cultures for different reasons. Picasso’s Spanish heritage meant he was familiar with the simplified, stylised and monumental figures of Iberian sculpture. He was also interested in African art. Although he never visited the continent, he studied objects in the Paris ethnographic museum and made his own versions of totemic African carvings. Picasso was fascinated by their highly stylised representations of the body and also their function as ritual objects. Picasso was very superstitious and he believed in the magical and talisman properties of objects. For this reason he felt a personal affiliation with this aspect of African art.Matisse collected African art and is thought to be responsible for introducing it to Picasso. He visited North Africa on several occasions, however it was Persian art that that had a more lasting influence on his work. Matisse was particularly interested in their use of pattern to create a sense of depth. Usually pattern has a flattening effect because it emphasises the surface of objects. In Persian miniatures different patterns are used to delineate different spatial areas. So for instance in an interior scene where we can see through an open door, down a corridor to a room beyond, the walls in the furthest room would have a different pattern from the walls of the corridor and of the main interior and this pattern would be used to describe the receding view.
oil on canvas 8'x7' MOMA
|Make sure you read Stokstad's discussion of this painting.
Form: According to the Clevelend Museum of Art,(http://www.clevelandart.org/exhibcef/PicassoAS/html/1477098.html)
In 1907 Picasso shocked fellow artists with his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Incorporating violent distortions of form and space, the painting synthesized Picasso’s recent studies of ancient Iberian and African sculpture. Early signs of Cubism appear in the radical breaking and reconstruction of space, the flattened forms, and the reversal of figure/ground relationships. Even Picasso found the painting so unsettling that he did not exhibit it for nearly a decade. Many art historians now recognize Le Demoiselles d’Avignon as a landmark in the history of art, the first Cubist (or proto-Cubist) painting, and perhaps the most important painting of the 20th century.Iconography: According to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, http://www.moma.org/collection/depts/paint_sculpt/blowups/paint_sculpt_006.html
Stokstad expands a bit on the iconography of this paintings and discusses the prepratory drawing at left.
Pablo Picasso. Les Demoiselles d' Avignon. 1907
oil on canvas 8'x7' MOMA
Nok Culture c500 BCE - 200 CE
Nok Head 500BCE - 200CE terracotta 14 in
Picasso. Glass and Bottle of Suze. 1912.
pasted paper, gouache, and charcoal 25"x19"
Washington Univ. Gallery, St. Louis Missouri
|Form: This is done using papier collé, which is just French
for collage. It is done in the cubist manner, and may fall under the auspices
of synthetic cubism, where other objects are combined with the painting
or drawing to create a finished work.
Iconography and Context;
The following is quoted from, Jean Sutherland Boggs
Three of the clippings in the Washington University's Glass and Bottle of Suze refer to incidents
during the First Balkan War in which Turkey was trying to defend the Ottoman Empire against Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece. As Leighten has pointed out, the dispatches (two here by Pal Erio) are vivid and make the horrors of war, with winter and the wounded and dying, particularly harrowing. Finally Leighten found even more significance in the fact that the newsprint that forms a left-hand column, as observed by Daix and Rosselet, records the meeting of 40,000 socialists at Prè-Saint-Gervais to protest any involvement in war. These blocks of newsprint, now very much browner than they would have been but nevertheless shadowed by Picasso with touches of charcoal, cut or torn carelessly, pasted somewhat unevenly and certainly placed apparently haphazardly so that some have to be read upside down, do remind us of a world that is murky, disturbing and, in fact, disintegrating. This is one level of meaning in Glass and Bottle of Suze.
Leighten ignores the fact that there are other pieces of newsprint which come from serialized fiction in Le Journal, a novel by Abel Hermant (1862-1950) about some of the most snobbish and frivolous aspects of Parisian life. In their very silliness they represent an antidote to the Balkan Wars and socialism, or at least an expression of the absurdity of contrasts in the society in which Picasso was living. Where are we with the seeming ambiguities of the Glass and Bottle of Suze in the contrasts between the serious if obscured images of war and demands for social reform suggested by the newspaper clippings, and the clarity and decisiveness of the world of frivolous fiction and the bottle of Suze? Did Picasso ever expect that someone would read those newspaper clippings which he pasted together almost illegibly and which only can be read with photographs or by taking the papier collè down from a wall and putting it on a table? Perhaps he enjoyed the knowledge that certain secrets had to be unravelled before the work could be understood. Over thirty years later his young companion Françoise Gilot asked him about his papiers collès, which she herself then believed was "a kind of by-product or perhaps even the fading-out of Cubist painting." Picasso denied this and said,
We tried to get rid of trompe l'oeil to find a trompe l'esprit. We didn't any longer want to fool the eye; we wanted to fool the mind. The sheet of newspaper was never used in order to make a newspaper.... This displaced object has entered a universe for which it was not made and where it retains, in a measure, its strangeness. And this strangeness was what we wanted to make people think about because we were quite aware that our world was becoming very strange and not exactly reassuring.  We are still left uncertain that we have unravelled all the mysteries of this provocative work. As we look at it we can even discover that its more frivolous parts form the image of a man, the table his torso, the light brown gouache vertical at the left a leg with a foot standing on the bottom of the sheet of paper, the black zigzag the other leg, the cork a head undeniably small and modestly bowed, and a spiral of black charcoal around the stem of the glass a hand holding it toward us in a toast. The Glass and Bottle of Suze may reveal other secrets still."
|Form: Cubist work in which Picasso begins to show his penchant for
African masks (note the painted, mask-like quality of the face) and has
often been accused of being hostile towards women because of this unflattering
view of the body. A pendulous, rounded belly and spheres for breasts suggest
a not-so-suble dehumanization of the young woman. There is a symmetry in
the composition, if you were to cut the painting in half you would have
two different paintings.
Iconography: "In Girl before a Mirror, Picasso proceeds from "his
intense feeling for the girl, whom he endowed with a corresponding vitality.
He paints the body contemplated, loved and self-contemplating. The vision
of another's body becomes an intensely rousing and mysterious process."
To be sure, it may have been less the particular psychology of the passive
Marie-Thérèse that served Picasso than her suitability as
a vessel for primal feelings; indeed, that she did
not have a salient personality (such as that possessed by Dora Maar who was to replace her in Picasso's affections four years later) may have facilitated the artist's transformation of her into a quasi-mythical being. Picasso has a remarkable ability to empathically displace the egos of his models, male or female. This young girl's act of self-contemplation may well have been banal. If so, the very commonplaceness of the experience contributed to the universality of the insight which Picasso's genius has distilled from it." For the entire, full pages of in-depth analysis of this work go to http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/works/1932/opp32-01.html
Context: According to a Time article by Robert Hughes, "He was a superstitious, sarcastic man, sometimes rotten to his children, often beastly to his women. He had contempt for women artists. His famous remark about women being "goddesses or doormats" has rendered him odious to feminists, but women tended to walk into both roles open-eyed and eagerly, for his charm was legendary. Whole cultural industries derived from his much mythologized virility. He was the Minotaur in a canvas-and-paper labyrinth of his own construction."
Pablo Picasso, Guernica. 1937. oil on canvas 11'x25' Museo del Prado
Goya. Third of May 1808.
|Form: This huge work uses a vocabulary of cubism and the painted forms
look almost like a collage made from newspaper clippings. The hatchmarks
embedded in the forms look almost like the text found on a newspaper page
as seen from a distance. Like a page from a newspaper this work is monochromatic
and was painted in shades of black and white. The arrangement of
the composition is in a friezlike pattern. There is no deep space
and the viewer seems to be looking at a series of simulataneous events.
One is both inside and outside of buildings.
Iconography and Context:
"Picasso was moved to paint the huge mural Guernica shortly after German planes, acting on orders from Spain's authoritarian leader Francisco Franco, bombarded the Basque town of Guernica on April 26, 1937, during the Spanish civil war. Completed in less than two months, Guernica was hung in the Spanish Pavilion of the Paris International Exposition of 1937. The painting does not portray the event; rather, Picasso expressed his outrage by employing such imagery as the bull, the dying horse, a fallen warrior, a mother and dead child, a woman trapped in a burning building, another rushing into the scene, and a figure leaning from a window and holding out a lamp. Despite the complexity of its symbolism, and the impossibility of definitive interpretation, Guernica makes an overwhelming impact in its portrayal of the horrors of war. It was on extended loan at New York City's Museum of Modern Art from 1939 until 1981, when it was returned to Spain at Madrid's Prado Museum. In 1992 the work was moved to the city's new museum of 20th-century art, the Reina Sofia Art Center. Dora Maar, Picasso's next companion to be portrayed, took photographs of Guernica while the work was in progress."Everywhere in the images are images of screaming suffering people and animals. There are also two lamps. These lights are surrounded by black halos and therefore do nothing to dispell the darkeness of the horrible events. At the far left of the composition is a mother holding a dead child who screams and cries. This is a direct reference to Michelangelo's Pieta. Above her is a bull which is both a martyr and a symbol of the dreadful Minotaur. (also see the Legend of the Minotaur in Stokstad page 134). or go here :http://www.bulfinch.org/fables/bull20.html
In the center of the image is a foreshortened figure who looks very much like Caravaggio's depiction of the Conversion of Paul. To the far right of the image we see a figure whose arms are thrown into the air who looks like a crucifixion or the martyr depicted in Goya's Third of May.
Context: This work is very much akin to Goyas' famous work, Third of May, where the lone revolutionary is surrounded by an almost beatific glow as he becomes a martyr. Guernica is filled withthe same iconographic tendencies, the woman holding the dead child on the left can be visually compared to Michaelangelos Pieta.
|Form: Study sketches for the mural Guernica. Basic graphite and charcoal
on paper. Doodles that help an artist realize and define a final idea.
Iconography: Picasso was strongly opposed to the idea of war and detruction.
In these two sketches the main figures are bulls and horses, obviously
coomon animals in Spain. But, the secxond bull has been given a human head,
perhaps to suggest a minotaur, or the way in which humans become transformed
into beasts when engaged in war.
Context: There are hidden pictures within Guernica. "Picasso was very secretive about the meanings of Guernica and would only talk about it in a guarded and superficial way, yet the mysteries of its imagery have given rise to more art historical interpretations than any other picture in history. Surprisingly, nearly all of these scholarly interpretations are oblivious to Guernica's concealed imagery."
Here are some comparisons of the two images I found on this website;http://web.org.uk/picasso/guernica.html
The themes of death, the bullfight and the crucifixion are common to both pictures. The Guernica bull is very like the bull in the drawing, both are huge, in profile and stand motionless observing the scene before them. There is a strong similarity in the dramatic clashing of light and dark tones and the overhead light sources in both pictures. In both Guernica and the 1934 drawing there is a second bull's head concealed below the horse. The head of the woman with the lamp in Guernica swoops downwards from the upper right corner in exactly the same way as does the head of the hidden Lucifer in the drawing. Lucifer means 'the light bringer' and is related symbolically to Venus, the Morning Star. She represents the evil of the physical world. The fallen warrior in Guernica is very similar to the central figure in the 1934 drawing, both are in the crucifixion pose and both have severed arms, identifying them symbolically with Picasso. The fallen warrior, like the central figure in the drawing, is also relatable to Parsifal, because of the broken sword in his hand. Parsival was given a magnificent sword which breaks in two at a crucial moment in battle.
In the centre of Guernica there is a human skull concealed within the body and legs of the wounded horse. Both pictures contain the same overlaying of horse and skull in the centre. In Guernica the horse has been stabbed by a spear, a symbol representing Picasso-the first four letters of his name mean spear in Spanish. The diamond tip of the spear represents harlequin, who like Christ has a mystical power over death. The Guernica spear also has a relationship to the broad paintbrush in the 1934 drawing. This has been overlaid on to the skull within the area of the concealed horse. In Guernica we find the skull penetrated by a spear within the horse. Picasso would have certainly made the association between a wet paintbrush and a spear in his childhood. Therefore it seems plausible from the placing of the paintbrush in the 1934 drawing, that the Guernica spear, is also a cryptic representation of Picasso's paintbrush, partly because of its similar appearance and partly because of its connection to Picasso's remarks about painting being a weapon,
'No, painting is not made to decorate apartments. its
an offensive and defensive weapon against the
The Guernica spear penetrates a cryptic representation of Hitler in the centre of the composition. In the centre of the 1934 drawing there is also a concealed portrait of Hitler. In the 1934 drawing, Picasso takes possession of the spear from Klingsor, who is strongly associated with Hitler. In Guernica, the artist continues this Wagnerian narrative by stabbing Hitler with the spear, which has now been transformed into a talisman of Picasso's personal mystical symbols.
Picasso was very secretive about the meanings of Guernica and
would only talk about it in a guarded and superficial way, yet the
mysteries of its imagery have given rise to more art historical
interpretations than any other picture in history. Surprisingly, nearly
all of these scholarly interpretations are oblivious to Guernica's
© Mark Harris 1996, 1997
To read about all the hidden images, go here, http://web.org.uk/picasso/guernica.html
There are so many similarities between 1934 drawing and Guernica that it seems certain to be an important but unknown precursor to Picasso's greatest painting.
Like the drawing, Guernica is also full of hidden images and themes, consequently, almost every line and shape in it is meaningful, either in the context of what it represents or what it is concealing.
mono.chro.mat.ic adj [L monochromatos, fr. Gk monochromatos, fr. mon- + chromat-, chroma color] (1822) 1 a: having or consisting of one color or hue b: monochrome 2 2: consisting of radiation of a single wavelength or of a very small range of wavelengths 3: of, relating to, or exhibiting monochromatism -- mono.chro.mat.i.cal.ly adv -- mono.chro.ma.tic.i.ty n