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The Embodiment of Artistic Objects in Pablo Picasso’s Cubism

Department of World Languages & Cultures, Sam Houston State University, 1905 University Ave, Huntsville, TX 77340, USA
Arts 2022, 11(1), 32;
Submission received: 15 November 2021 / Revised: 30 December 2021 / Accepted: 18 January 2022 / Published: 9 February 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A 10-Year Journey of Arts)


According to Michael Tucker, the breakdown of consciousness in modern art, a breakdown that carries the modern artist backwards to an all-embracing participation with the world, leads to a return to archaic qualities of participation mystique that involves constructive, creative elements of a new vision of reality. This may be observed in Pablo Picasso, who wanted with the help of primitive vision to cleanse painting of the stale and paralyzing conventions that he viewed as a sham compared to the profound truth of art. For the Spaniard, painting at its origins was capable of an expressive force so powerful that even the great classic masters were unable to match it, much less strengthen it. The new art he defended was an art of creation, not imitation. It should follow its own generative principles. I examine the three major periods of Cubism (Cézannian, analytic and synthetic) from this perspective as a process of creativity in which Picasso struggled to find the true real and in the process opened up the possibility for new creations including his own persona.

As Miles J. Unger has noted, 1906 was a transitional year for Picasso: a year separating youth from maturity, promise from fulfillment. During these months of intense work, “a painter of late-nineteenth-century sensibility was reborn as a prophet of modernity, one whose utterances seemed to ring with both the promise and the peril of the new age” (Unger 2018, p. 258). He took the crucial steps on the path to an artistic revolution with no clear destination in mind. All he knew for sure was that he had to take his art in new directions if he wished to rise to the challenge posed by the artists Henri Matisse (b. 1869) and his Fauve colleagues. In seeking an alternative to their chromatic profligacy, Picasso steeped himself in the art of the past. Initially, his course paralleled the one taken a couple of decades earlier by Paul Cézanne (b. 1839), when he had tried to impose geometric structure on the amorphous clouds of Impressionism by studying the work of the great seventeenth-century painter Nicolas Poussin (b. 1594). In Picasso’s case, the search for a more rigorous approach led him also to the art of Jean-Auguste-Dominigue Ingres (b. 1780) (Unger 2018, p. 264).
The latter’s 1905 retrospective at the Salon d’Automne might have been one of the triggering factors (Daix 2007, p. 12). His spontaneous reaction to it coincided with a more instinctive response to classical art—Greek as well as Roman, high style as well as archaic. Pablo set about studying this art first hand in the Louvre, as we know from Ardengo Soffici, the Italian futurist artist and critic who lived in the French capital from 1900 until 1907. Soffici frequently found him in the galleries of antiquities. He later recalled: “[At the Louvre] Picasso always returned to the ground-floor rooms, where he would pace around and around like a hound in search of game between the rooms of Egyptian and Phoenician antiquities—among the sphinxes, basalt idols and papyri, and the sarcophagi painted in vivid colors” (Soffici 1942, pp. 365–66). He was not the only young man feeling a renewed enthusiasm for the art of the past. A classical revival was sweeping through France, indeed much of southern Europe (Richardson 1991, p. 423). When toward the end of February, Picasso continued working on the canvas Portrait de Gertrude Stein,1 the influence of both Ingres and the archaic sculptures he had studied in the museum was obvious. Increasingly he had been seeing the human form in terms of plastic volume, stripping it down to essentials, to a very few blocks, stylizing it into something that was less and less naturalistic. Any infringement of natural proportion he accepted with a shrug, even accentuating it to highlight the independence of art. There was no realistic illusions in these lines and brushwork. They were simply there on the canvas to do the job of establishing a form” (Warncke and Walther 1991, pp. 143–45). And yet there was a compromise between structural simplification and psychological study. Gertrude’s personality attracted or intrigued him, and in the course of the numerous sittings he attempted gradually to lay bare her soul, or to uncover his own through her. However, this psychological approach—if it really existed—clashed in some ways with the plastic research he had undertaken, a clear response to Matisse’s new discoveries (Palau i Fabre 1980, p. 436).
Exactly when the two painters first met is open to debate. From 28 February to 15 March, there was an exhibition devoted to Odilon Redon and Edouard Manet at Durand-Ruel. The show was reportedly the backdrop for an exchange between Matisse and Picasso, according to Leo Stein, which means that they must have already met by that time. The senior artist, who stressed what he felt was the superiority of Redon, told Leo that Pablo had agreed with him. When the American later said as much to the Spaniard, it triggered an explosion of wrath: “That makes no sense. Redon is an interesting painter, sure enough, but Manet is a giant” (Stein 1947, p. 171; Daix 2007, p. 11). Several facts suggest that their earliest meeting may date to the Matisse retrospective at Galerie Druet right before the 1906 Salon des Indépendants, which is when Pablo himself later said they had first run into each other, and that Leo’s first visit to his studio had taken place before the summer of 1905.2 This chronology lends greater credibility to the “ninety or so” sittings that Gertrude claimed she endured from the time when Picasso first started painting her to March 1906 when he temporarily abandoned the portrait. This incidentally means that it had been underway in the autumn of 1905 when the Steins bought Matisse’s Femme au chapeau. It is also reasonable to assume that the Steins acquired their first Picassos between the Serrurier exhibition of February 1905 and the summer of that same year. This transaction would therefore have been made before the purchase of their first Matisse (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 362). These facts are significant to establish the important interrelation between Picasso, Matisse and the Steins. The Galerie Druet retrospective we referred to above was held from 19 March to 7 April. Matisse showed fifty-five paintings, three sculptures, and watercolors and drawings spanning 1897–1906, as well as his first lithographs and woodcuts, made earlier in the year (Elderfield 1992, p. 134; Daix 2007, p. 11; Roe 2015, p. 151). We know Picasso attended it (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 341). But despite the placard of brightly colored sailing boats he had painted for the gallery window to advertise the exhibition, it attracted little attention. Regardless, Druet took the long view, investing 2000 francs in a stock of the painter’s latest work. Vollard promptly followed suit, purchasing work for a total of 2200 francs (Roe 2015, p. 151).
The Salon des Indépendants opened at Grandes Serres de la Ville de Paris, Cours-la-Reine one day after the retrospective.3 The elected members of the hanging committee included Matisse, Signac and Metzinger. Following the Salon d’Automne of 1905 which had triggered the emergence of Fauvism, the Indépendants this year marked the first time all the Fauves exhibited together. The centerpiece of the exhibition was Matisse’s monumental Le bonheur de vivre (Franck 2001, p. 97; Daix 2007, p. 11). Critics were horrified by the flatness, bright colors, eclectic style and mixed technique of the painting (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 341).
Leo bought Le bonheur de vivre while the Salon was still running, regarding it as “the most important work of our time”.4 This opinion undoubtedly annoyed Picasso. Jealousy of the other man’s success goaded him to greater heights (Unger 2018, p. 228). To challenge the older artist, he would have to radically rethink his art once more. He was slowly gaining recognition as a leader of the avant-garde, and increasing numbers of collectors were making the trek to the summit of the Butte to purchase his work, but this was obviously not enough (Roe 2015, pp. 148–49). In his opinion, the new art would have to match the sense of endless innovation that science and technology seemed to offer. The 1900 “Exposition Universelle” had shown the latest technological marvels. Instead of merely reproducing what the eye saw, art had to generate “its own reality on the surface of the canvas, a reality more vivid than, and bearing only the most cursory resemblance to, anything found in nature” (Unger 2018, p. 261).
As he continued working on the Portrait de Gertrude Stein in the spring (Fluegel 1980, p. 59; Roe 2015, p. 140), he discovered an exhibition of Iberian sculptures at the Louvre dating largely to the fourth century BCE that had been excavated a few years earlier at Osuna and Cerro de los Santos which revealed to him a primitive art indigenous to his own country. (Osuna is located less than fifty miles from his birthplace).5 Picasso sought in Iberian sculpture the necessary support needed for disregarding academic constraints and challenging all aesthetic limitations. Those statues reflected the art of the peninsula before the “civilizing” impact of Greece and Rome. He wanted—with the help of this “primitive” vision—to cleanse art of what he called tricks—the stale and paralyzing conventions—which were merely a sham compared to the profound truths of painting. He was convinced that art, at its origins, had been capable of a powerful expressive force that centuries of classic domination had only served to weaken (Daix 1993, pp. 62–63). He shared with other avant-garde painters the belief that Western traditions were spent and needed to be revitalized by tapping into something more primal, more authentic (Unger 2018, p. 272). Tucker wonders if it is only a matter of coincidence that the period in which prehistoric art was being unearthed witnessed an unprecedented, cataclysmic change in the imagery and intent of Western art. The essentially metaphoric nature of the myth-inflected thought and imagery of primitive art precipitated a psychological change and growth. Existence was no longer a matter of oneself and the world, but rather oneself in the world. Erich Neuman has spoken of the “breakdown of consciousness” in modern art, a breakdown which carried the artist “backwards to an all-embracing participation with the world” (Neumann 1970, p. 25). Such a return to archaic qualities of participation mystique contained “the constructive, creative elements of a new world vision” (Tucker 1992, pp. 1–26).
From March to April, Picasso worked on the gouache Chevaux au bain6 and the oil Le meneur de cheval nu.7 The many preparatory studies revealed a determined effort at simplification as one after another of the original romantic, anecdotal details was stripped away. To evoke the idea of primitive purity he chose the archetypal image of man in harmony with beast and conveyed a hushed sense of the dawn of creation by setting the pair within a featureless, primeval landscape. The absence of a bridle adds to the sense of being beyond known time or the logic of cause and effect. References to archaic Greek kouros statues are transparent. By concentrating exclusively on earthy tones of terracotta and bluish-grey he gave the surface of the canvas the look of baked clay or dusty stone of Iberian or ancient Greek sculptures (Cowling 2002, pp. 131–52).
The Matisse retrospective at Druet’s had brought to Picasso’s attention the rupture with orthodox canons of drawing. While it is hard not to be struck by a certain sense of complicity with Matisse’s Arcadian Bonheur de Vivre, his attempt to synthesize these discoveries derived mostly from Paul Gauguin (b. 1848) (Daix 2007, p. 11). Leo had introduced Picasso to the French painter, designer, and potter Gustave Fayet, enabling Pablo to study his collection of Gauguins (Daix 2007, p. 11; Baldassari 2007, p. 334). It was on 23 April that he had stopped by to see it. Fayet had moved to Paris from Béziers in 1905. In addition to paintings and works on paper, his collection included the partly enameled stoneware figure of the deity Oviri that the artist had made in 1894 and left with his patron before returning to Tahiti in June 1895 (Mahler 2015, p. 52). This influence would be apparent in Picasso’s woodcut Buste de jeune femme de trois-quarts,8 as well as in subsequent high reliefs and canvases painted during the summer in Gósol and in Paris that autumn (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 363). By now, Pablo had internalized the ethic of the avant-garde, which placed its highest value on originality and awarded its accolades to those artists that had set the world on fire. Like Gauguin, he had to show he was capable of overturning all the rules and creating forms never seen before (Unger 2018, p. 260). Progressively, the proportions of the bodies in his work became more thickset, the heads shorter and more square, the eyes sightless and full of brown shadow, making them stand from the almost monochrome background (Vallentin 1963, p. 71).
During his stay in Gósol in the Spanish Pyrenees that summer, there was a certain hardening in his pictures, the pink growing less rosy, the figures assuming a still more sculptural form and their faces an impassive, mask-like quality, as though the severe, primitive Iberians were showing through. At intervals of roaming about the Sierra del Cadi and the lower valley with its astonishing geology of blood-red soil and green shattered rock with bands of native vermilion and coal, he concentrated on his paintings (O’Brian 1994, pp. 146–47). The withdrawn, introspective mood so prominent in his early work vanished rapidly, to be replaced by a new sense of creation and energy. The human figure was compressed in order to explore the qualities of welling physical force. In details like the stumpy, muscular forearms or the mighty break of the wrists, the grotesquely compacted limbs and torso arouse a sense of harnessed, superhuman strength. In color and texture, too, these almost prehistoric characters he drew evoke the birth throes; they were painted, for the most part, in earthy, terracotta colors that, especially in the frequently unfinished areas, suggest a primordial soil from which a pristine radical vision would soon grow to maturity and fruition (Rosenblum 1976, p. 15).
Picasso repeated indefinitely the same stocky form, shadowed eyes gazing nowhere, thereby warding off any psychological or emotional pitfalls (Léal et al. 2000, pp. 91–95). The generally reddish, clay colored palette of the Gósol paintings reflected a preoccupation with modeling and a turning back to his archaic, Mediterranean artistic roots. At the same time, the intimate presence of Fernande catalyzed a new sensual image: broad hips, full young breasts, almond-shaped eyes under the delicate and pure double arc of the brows, a voluptuous mouth drawn in the perfect symmetry of the face haunted the canvases of this time. He took her as a model for exploring the possibilities of expressing three-dimensional form by contour alone without variations of light (Daix 1965, p. 51). The prior open forms, leaving plenty of air around them, were succeeded by a tightening of the outlines.
The influence of Iberian masks is clearly visible in the oil Autoportrait à la palette.9 He modeled the face in large planes that emphasized the rise of the forehead, the shape of the eye-sockets, the eyelids and the taut, sinuous line of the upper lip, going back to ancient Mediterranean art. The head is too small for the massive body, the chin too short, the cheeks too flat. The orbits are firmly drawn and the eyebrows—which are too long—curve away toward the temples and in the unequal eyes there is a strange hypnotized look (Vallentin 1963, pp. 76–78). While the portrait is executed with extreme simplicity, these graphic elements coexist uneasily with passages of subtle shading—especially in the sleeve of his right arm and the left side of his torso—that draw on a different perceptual mode. The technique by which a painter suggests a three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface is deployed in such a way as to undercut any consistent reading, as we also saw with Gertrude’s portrait. The dark shadow beneath his chin, for example, suggests a projection into space that is belied by the paper-thin treatment of the neck and much of his body below. As Unger has argued, Picasso was pushing his painting in two conflicting directions: stressing an iconic flatness while at the same maximizing sculptural solidity. He was seeking a way of restoring a lost sense of wholeness, to wrest painting from the old conventional effects that had produced nothing but empty dexterity (Unger 2018, pp. 287–88).
This was his first explicit self-portrait painting since 1901. In previous years, he had placed himself in his canvases only in the guise of a hungry beggar or scraggly performer, metaphors for the impoverished painter scorned by bourgeois society. Here, in contrast, he casts himself as a hardy, athletic figure whose power is concentrated in the massive right arm, which overwhelms the rest of the simply rendered body. The eyes do not gaze back at the viewer, but look off into an indefinite distance. Casting himself as the painter without a brush, Picasso confidently ascribes to himself the “magic” he would continue to discover and treasure in pre-modern and non-Western art traditions (Temkin 2000, p. 21). The self-portrait stood between two periods of his art: it heralded a new style. He almost entirely renounced color, restricting it largely to the triad of gray, white, and ocher. Only the palette that he holds in his hand shows a bit of red and a darker ocher pigments. Precisely because of this near-absence of color, the forms in space and the volumes of the body are brought out the more strongly. The figure of the artist is projected into space and creating its own field of energy (Jaffé 1982, p. 62).
Paintings like Tête de jeune homme (Autoportrait)10 can be seen to constitute a manifesto; it proposed an alternative to Fauvism; an alternative to Matisse’s leadership in the avant-garde. The Frenchman wanted to soothe, comfort and delight, whereas the Spaniard wanted to challenge, excite and shock (Richardson 1991, pp. 471–72). Wrestling with the contradictions born of his own work, he “fled forward”, but this process went hand in hand with reflections on primitive art, archaic Greek art, Iberian art, vase painting on Attic lekythoi, Egyptian steles, or simply Gauguin’s paintings (Daix 1965, pp. 51–53; Léal et al. 2000, pp. 95–107).
This triumphant group of self-portraits bear witness to Picasso’s Dionysian exaltation. He was smoking hashish at the time. According to Fernande, on one occasion Pablo started screaming that he had discovered photography, probably astounded by the promptness with which he was capable of capturing his surroundings (Olivier 1965, pp. 165–66), for when he drew or painted, he already saw what he was still in the process of drawing or painting, on paper or on canvas; his eye projected the image because it was already prefigured in its own pupil. Very frequently, all he did was to trace the lines of what he already saw in his mind (Palau i Fabre 1980, p. 468; also Franck 2001, p. 63). Yet, as Pierre Daix points out, those instantaneous photographs that were now available proved that resemblance was not synonymous with visual accuracy. They were merely other representations standardized by habit, fashion and conventions. Picasso realized that in freeing himself from a representational approach, he could at the same time get nearer to reality and obey the exigencies and laws of painting itself. He reimposed reality in its structure, its masses, its forms, its duration. This became a duel between man and matter, between the painter and the external object, as the process of creation evolved (Daix 1965, pp. 58–59).
On 22 October, Paul Cézanne died in Aix-en-Provence. Ten of his works were still being displayed at the running Salon d’Automne (Torras 2002, p. 105; Daemgen 2005, p. 18; Daix 2007, p. 14). Of him Kahnweiler had said: “Cézanne [is] the point of departure for all painting today” (Kahnweiler 1949, p. 3). Both Matisse and Derain were Cézannists; each owned a work by him (which Picasso had seen in their studios). No doubt, his death was the topic of conversation, and he must have become aware of the profound convergence of vision represented in the Salon between Cézanne and Gauguin, on the one hand, and the new generation of artists, on the other (Daix 2007, p. 14). Derain had moved to Montmartre, where he had taken the studio on rue Tourlaque (toward the bottom of rue Lepic) previously occupied by Pierre Bonnard, thus choosing Picasso’s territory over Matisse’s Quartier Latin (Richardson 1996, p. 72; also Franck 2001, p. 65; Unger 2018, p. 297). His defection from the older painter’s group was the more opportune for coming at a time when Pablo was mustering all his resources to win out over his rival. Their frequent visits to each other’s ateliers were dictated less by friendship than by curiosity and competitiveness. Each had to see what the other was up to, and both of them would profit hugely from the dynamics of this rivalry. Derain would put his well-stocked mind at his disposal. His interests in philosophy, mysticism and comparative religion would be the more congenial to Picasso’s in that they both tended toward the magical and the arcane. The Frenchman’s notebooks and letters reveal that he had studied the Cabala, astrology, Pythagoras, Buddhism, the Tarot, Nietzsche, Plotinus, etc. (Richardson 1996, p. 74). Most importantly, he was deeply interested in African art, which he collected (Franck 2001, pp. 65–66).
In the autumn, we find quick sketches of robust female nudes seen alternately from the front, the back, and in profile, their faces with vacant Iberian eyes carefully worked, as in Deux nus (Étude).11 He learnt to divest himself of slickness in order to get back to the basic forms of reality and its essential qualities. In the spirit of the time when artists sought to escape from decadent traditionalism by exploring exotic forms of art or returning to the most primitive beginnings (Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 11–13). The choice of certain expressive, stylized elements, divorced from any realism or ideal representation, allowed him to stress the tenacity of a gaze, the solidity of the body (Seckel 1996, p. 23). By divesting his work of overt narrative elements he gave free rein to his libido. The paintings he made over the course of the next months were eroticized, even when their ostensible subject matter was relatively chaste (Unger 2018, p. 288), as in the oil Femme nue assise, les jambes croisées,12 placed on a rectangular plinth that helps to define and confirm her girth. The face seems to be clumsily hewn out of the original stone. The orbits of the eyes are high beneath an accentuated curve of the eyebrows, the noses V-shaped, the cheeks steep, the chins pointed. Although the rose tone tinged with purplish blue he had brought from his experiments in Gósol still persisted here and there, the bodies now appeared in monochrome, as if carved out of the rock (Vallentin 1963, p. 76). The influence of Cézanne’s bathers is also apparent in these monumental figure types and in autonomous patterning of light and dark (Fluegel 1980, p. 59). His way of rendering form and color in accordance with the laws of painting rather than those of nature was very much in line with the style he was looking for: heavy figures, powerfully built on solid foundations, mainly made up of geometrical shapes whose juxtaposition gave them an intense hieratic power (Cabanne 1979, p. 110).
In Deux nus,13 we encounter two gigantic matrons with terracotta flesh against a red-brown background. Their powerful thighs and breasts, wrestlers’ forearms and pectoral muscles and bulls’ necks are the antithesis of conventional female beauty. Facing each other, the two forms seem to be seen in a combination front and three-quarters view” (Cabanne 1979, p. 111). Golding argued that what we are actually seeing one single figure, part Iberian, part Negroid, depicted twice, and rotated as though on a sculptor’s wheel through 180 degrees (Golding 1994, p. 18). By restructuring the enormous flank of the woman on the right and centering her left breast on her torso, the painter managed to show us partial back and front views as well as a side view. For all that the pictorial space is as shallow as a bas-relief, we are able to experience these primordial females in the round more fully than ever before (Richardson 1991, p. 469). Unger writes: “These massive women expand in every possible direction, bulking large in time as well as space. The process of stretching time causes deformations in the three spatial dimensions as well, forms apparently receding and projecting at the same instant, locking figure and ground into a single, perceptually undulating field. This projection and recession, in turn, embodies in plastic terms the body, responsive to the urgent promptings of the flesh” (Unger 2018, p. 289). These figures would progressively metamorphose into a strange pair of women—a seated one, posed with one left high across the knee of the other, and a twin sister, who with her back to us and her legs spread wide, possesses a similar stocky Iberian-African look (Léal et al. 2000, pp. 107–10).
By mid-autumn, Picasso, Apollinaire, Jacob, and Salmon were in the habit of meeting Matisse for dinner. Jacob would later report that it was at Matisse’s place that Pablo saw art nègre, or at least was struck by it, for the first time: “We were dining one Thursday evening at Matisse’s on the quai Saint-Michel—Salmon, Apollinaire, Picasso, and myself. Matisse took a black, wooden statuette from a table and showed it to Picasso. It was the first piece of Negro wooden art. Picasso held onto it all evening. The next morning, when I arrived at the studio, the floor was strewn with sheets of paper, and on each sheet was drawn the head of a woman; all of them were more or less the same: one eye, an oversized nose attached to the mouth, and a lock of hair on the shoulders. Cubism was thus born” (Warnod 1972, p. 128; Cabanne 1979, p. 110; Madeline 2006, p. 198; Blier 2019, pp. 81–84). Matisse, on the other hand, maintained that he had introduced him to African sculpture at the Steins’ apartment. He recalled: “In rue de Rennes, I frequently passed a shop called Le Père Sauvage belonging to a dealer in exotic curios. And late one afternoon, I went in to buy a seated figure, a little man sticking out his tongue. Then I went to Gertrude Stein’s in rue de Fleurus. Picasso arrived as I was showing her the statue. We chatted about it. It was then that Picasso noticed the Negro sculpture” (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 363; Baldassari 2007, p. 334; Elderfield 1992, p. 135; Roe 2015, p. 169; Unger 2018, p. 332).
Matisse’s growing interest in African sculpture was shared by Vlaminck and Derain. The former had purchased his first African sculpture during the autumn, a nineteenth-century Vili statuette (from the Congo) at the shop on rue de Rennes belonging to Heymann, a dealer in exotic curiosities nicknamed “le Père Sauvage” (Franck 2001, p. 95). The artist later claimed to have been captivated by Negro masks as early as 1904 and to have interested Derain in them. Indeed, the latter would acquire a Fang mask directly from him. In any case, such masks were to be found everywhere and aroused the curiosity of people with a general taste for the exotic, representing a new stimulus amidst outworn subjects. They could be picked up for very little at Saint-Ouen or in the rue Mouffetard (Vallentin 1963, p. 78).
Blier has explained that the diminutive size of the Vili sculpture Picasso first saw and its relative lightness made the very act of handling it more intimate. He would have noticed how different this figure was from academic sculpture: there was no musculature defining the legs, arms, or stomach; the face also showed little resemblance to any living human, although it had all the physiognomic markers. Yet, perhaps because of these very traits, the sculpture had a unique power over him. The internal geometries and the wonderful harmonies of their composition intrigued him. The active, tactile experience—volume that can be felt as much as seen—as well as the emotional power it imparted reinforced the unique iconic impact of this small African figure for Picasso. Power objects of this sort are said to address reciprocating universes in a presumed interchange between the visible world of the living and the invisible realm of the dead (Blier 2019, pp. 85–88).
African tribal sculpture was often made with a specific function. It embodied a nonrational energy, and served to propitiate supernatural forces. The sculptural process in itself was ritualistic, for the logic and organization that went toward giving form to those invisible entities simultaneously controlled them, and gave the sculptor a sense of power. Picasso identified with these primitive artists. Salmon once called him an apprentice sorcerer, and Cendrars wrote that his works reminded him of black magic, “they exhale a strange, unhealthy, disturbing charm: they almost literally cast a spell. They are magic mirrors, sorcerer’s tables” (Choucha 1992, pp. 25–33). In Picasso’s view, African figures and masks, like Iberian sculptures and prehistoric art in general, all had in common one element, they were linked to supernatural forces and imbued with an incumbent ritual aura.
In contrast to the materialism prevalent in the nineteenth century, the emerging idealism in the twentieth century was based on the fundamental assumption of human creativity. Where once content and form, message and image had needed to harmonize, now form became dominant, and indeed became the content. The physiological independence of cognitive processes was established, and this legitimized an aesthetic view on the subject and indeed provided artists with a new impetus. In art, the philosophy of Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer prompted a recognition of the autonomous status of draftsmanship and color. It was a period when an artist might be in a position to rethink essential principles. It was also a time for the discovery of unfamiliar modes of expression; hence, the contemporary enthusiasm for what was considered primitive or exotic art (Warncke and Walther 1991, pp. 165–76).
The shattering of assumptions about how representation should work had become a new, sovereign imperative in Picasso’s picture making. Much of the drama would reside in the tension he created on canvas and declined to resolve, between the sanctioned modes and motifs of the pictorial tradition and extraneous interventions of the most daunting strangeness. He understood that the assault on tradition was most provocative when the lineaments of tradition—Ingres, Degas, etc.—were still to be seen in it (Riopelle 2009, pp. 55–62). For the same reasons as the Impressionists, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat or Cézanne, he wanted to tackle the main problem which was to pull painting out of its routine and obsolete rules in order to hand it back transformed by a new language, releasing a new harmony between expression of forms and the organization of space. He had discovered that he had to free himself from any imitative or illusionary art if he wanted his canvases to show a world which is entirely thought out and recreated by himself, giving the artist his natural role of inventor, of creator on new worlds (Diehl 1977, pp. 27–28). He slowly evolved a world of strange, confrontational figures like totems, where some kind of raw and primal exchange was under way.
In the winter, he painted several monstrously distorted female nudes, such as the small painting Trois nus (Étude),14 in which there was no colored charm to attenuate the expressionism, as was the case for the Fauves. His deliberate ugliness was wildly aggressive; it not only broke with the established concept of beauty, but it brutally savaged the human body (Cabanne 1979, p. 111). Picasso was aware that technical virtuosity had a built-in disadvantage: facility. This had to be fought at all costs. After flirting with classicism earlier on, he had finally seen how primitivism—Gauguin’s synthetic brand as well as the real thing—could enable him to fuse the conflicts inherent in his style and vision (Richardson 1991, pp. 472–74). As Irving Lavin has pointed out, he was not simply opening new avenues in an accepted tradition; he was rethinking in a deep and serious way the very foundations of art (Lavin 2007, pp. 55–56). For Picasso, art was, at its deepest level, a shamanistic practice concerned with managing the hidden forces that rule man’s fate. The key to discovering an artistic language capable of reflecting the jarring, jagged realities of contemporary life would have to come through channeling modes that issued from the remotest past, before civilization interposed the multiple layers that alienated men from their true selves. The breakthrough came when he discovered the tools to tap into the magic that was at the heart of all artistic creation but that was embodied most fully in the “naïve” art of so-called “primitives” (Unger 2018, p. 263).
Knowing of Pablo’s interest in primitive art, his friend André Derain urged him to visit the Musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro.15 As already mentioned, he, along with Vlaminck and Matisse, had seen the potential of tribal art as a catalyst. However, André was too full of doubt to do much about it for another year. By urging Picasso to visit the museum, he was relinquishing to him the risk involved in pursuing that route (Cabanne 1979, p. 118; Richardson 1996, p. 76). The experience was exhilarating: “When I went to Trocadéro it was disgusting. A flea market. The smell. I was all alone. I wanted to leave. But I didn’t go. I stayed. And I stayed. I realized it was very important: something was happening to me, right? The masks were not sculptures like the others. Not at all. They were magical things. And why not the Egyptians and Chaldeans? We hadn’t noticed: primitives, not magic! The Negroes were ‘intercessors’—I’ve learned the French word since then. Against everything, against unknown, threatening spirits. I was still looking at the fetishes when I realized that me, too, I’m against everything. Me, too, think everything is unknown, is the enemy. Everything, but everything, not just details: women, children, animals, tobacco, toys! I understood what Negroes used their sculpture for. Why they carved like that, rather than another way. All the same, they were not Cubists! Because Cubism didn’t exist. Surely some guys invented the models, and other guys imitated them—that’s tradition, right? But all those fetishes were used for the same thing. They were weapons. To help people become independent, to no longer obey the spirits. Tools. If we give a form to spirits, we become independent. Spirits, the unconscious (not yet discussed much), emotion, it’s all the same thing. I understood why I was a painter. All alone in this dreadful museum, with masks, redskin dolls, dusty manikins. The Demoiselles d’Avignon had to happen that very day, not at all because of the forms: but because it was my first canvas of exorcism, that’s why!” (Gilot and Lake 1964, p. 248; also O’Brian 1994, pp. 153–54; Unger 2018, pp. 329–30).
For him, these intensely formalized works helped crystallize his kinship with archaic expression. For centuries, Spain, geographically severed from the rest of Europe, had preserved many of the effects of its African and Middle Eastern contacts, and was closer to the concepts and rhythms of archaic and primitive expression than any other country on the continent. He was aware that for a primitive sculptor, who carved ritual objects, there was no schism between form and content. The object was not imitative, but embodied its message in forms that created rather than reflected, became rather than described their subject. He would later say: “They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern painting, I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things, cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not’… Cubism was an experience with reality, not with abstraction … Cubism defined reality as a psychological presence rather than as a set of external appearances” (Schwartz 1971, pp. 21–24).
By March 1907, he had become a recluse, virtually forsaking painting for drawing and was busy filling sketchbooks in preparation for Les demoiselles d’Avignon.16 One of them was Sketchbook 1063 which contained drawings related to brothel scenes. Pablo, who freely admitted sleeping with most of his models, was doubtless seeing other women beside Fernande. He may also have reverted to his old habit of frequenting brothels, since his subjects usually reflected the circumstances of his daily life. Citing Gilot’s assertion that Picasso confessed to having caught and been cured of an unspecified venereal disease at some unspecified time before his first marriage, William Rubin hazards a guess that this occurred in the course of this winter and that “trepidation in regard to syphilis and gonorrhea had to play some role in the symbolism (Richardson 1996, p. 18). Like a sorcerer’s apprentice who transforms elements and actions at will, the distorted figures in some of the preliminary studies suggests Pablo’s attempt to fight the dangers of the world through exorcism (Blier 2019, pp. 123–25). He knew that principle that effulgent life shared the world with ravening death. Indeed, he saw the dynamic interplay between the constructive and destructive principles, Freud’s Eros and Thanatos, as the key to creativity. The composition he had in mind was not intended to be a brothel in the normal sense of the word. As Unger states, “it was to be the great battlefield of the human soul, an Armageddon of lust and loathing but also of liberation, the site where our conflicted nature reveals itself in all its anarchic violence” (Unger 2018, pp. 315–18).
In early spring, Picasso purchased the large canvas on which he hoped to realize “the first fruit of his experiments”. He had been lately careless about the quality of the support, but this time he chose a particularly expensive, fine-grained cotton canvas. One lesson he had learned from his father that remained with him throughout his life was to make all major statements with a grande machine, a canvas whose careful craft and vast dimensions signaled its importance (Unger 2018, pp. 304–5). The Steins provided him with money for a second studio in Bateau-Lavoir that could accommodate the large canvas. This was a dark room on the floor below his main studio: a sanctuary where he could lock himself away from any disruptions, including Fernande’s (Richardson 1991, p. 474; Richardson 1996, p. 17; Roe 2015, p. 171; Unger 2018, pp. 306, 320). He immediately delved into works such as Femme au corsage jaune17 and other related studies of figures standing stiffly, frontally, with hands joined at the groin, a pose that seems to have had a special, independent significance for him. Despite their modest informality, these extraordinary studies were among the most important of all in his planning for the final canvas, for it is evident that they were records of a mental process in which he was working out schemes of proportions for the human body. According to Lavin, his goal was to create a new image of mankind out of the disjecta membra of the past (Lavin 2007, p. 56). By late March, he started preparing the canvas itself,18 as witnessed by Leo before his departure for Italy: “I had some pictures relined, and [Picasso] decided that he would have one of his pictures too treated like a classic, though in reverse order—he would have the canvas lined first and paint on it afterwards” (Stein 1947, p. 175).
Daix speaks of a fantastic spectacle as he imagined the stocky short artist in front of the huge picture, a canvas he would be fighting with for months, in which disjointed women were carrying on. The original memento mori had at first been intended to make fun of the title of Matisse’s Le bonheur de vivre. But as he continued with his sketches, the idea had changed into the exact opposite of that Arcadian pastoral. Pictorially, it was even more of a contrast. For one, the rather theatrical enclosed setting of the bordello clearly contrasted with Matisse’s open scenery. Moreover, the exaggerated and increasingly violent primitivism was a veritable assault on the rhythmic, limpid cloisonnisme of the older artist (Daix and Rosselet 1979, p. 18). Progressively, under the influence of what he had seen in the Trocadéro, the figures became geometrical constructs, a confusion of shapes going every which way, reminiscent of nothing known. The bodies with their broad flesh-pink planes were not shaded by either light or chiaroscuro, but violently chiseled with unrestrained fury (Cabanne 1979, p. 113). And yet, his shock at the museum had not been caused by the sight of something new but by the recognition of something he knew already existed. The value of seeing it so clearly lay in recognizing the twin poles of mimesis: a possible interaction between the ideal co-incidence of object and representation, on the one hand, and the complete absence of any representational value, on the other (Warncke and Walther 1991, pp. 148–53).
Picasso was struggling to find an artistic language worthy of a metamorphosing energy (Tucker 1992, pp. 100–16). “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them”, he explained. More than any of his contemporaries, he had an intuition of the uncanny dimensions of art and how they could restore the lost sense of connection with the occult forces that govern the world. They were cast spells, cryptic incantations obeying inscrutable laws. In Unger’s words, he wanted to “reclaim art’s totemic status”. What intrigued him was the piercing insight that art was, fundamentally, not an aesthetic practice at all but a system for manipulating the hidden forces of the universe (Unger 2018, pp. 334–39). Meyer Shapiro writes that primitive arts at this time “acquired the special prestige of the timeless and the instinctive, on the level of spontaneous animal activity, self-contained, unreflective, private, without dates and signatures, without origins or consequences except in the emotions. Thus, for Picasso, African sculpture looked “rational” because it incarnated rather than simply represented its subject. He grasped that African art was the vehicle for the mimicry not of things or creatures, but of a collective emotion. In him, we also find an artist who saw kinship among the arts of the most widely divergent cultures and eras and who created the moment when the formalized language for which he strove could find interchangeable derivations (Kozloff 1973, pp. 18–26). He heard the call of the shaman, a call to a type of visionary knowledge, a call that breaks from the so-called normal circumstances. According to Mircea Eliade, through the exercise of special techniques a shaman tries to reconstitute the state of primordial man mentally transporting him to “paradisiac myths” that speak of an original harmony and unity between mankind, the animal realm and nature; a time when there was complete “communion” between all elements of life. African myths spoke of the fall of man once he separated himself from this realm, and of a desired return to Paradise (Tucker 1992, pp. 76–99).
Les demoiselles d’Avignon had ushered in an expressionistic or “exorcist” phase, with African art serving as the model for a more aggressive and “savage” form of primitivism. It was, he said, the “sorcery” element in it, not its aesthetic quality, that attracted him. Picasso must have known that the reliquary figures were associated in some way with rites for the dead and meant to provide protection against evil spirits (Cowling 2002, pp. 115–94). Since the power of his primitive exemplars—what he chose to call “intercessors” or “witnesses”—resides in their being magic objects, he also aspired to do three-dimensional works; not conventional, Rodinesque sculptures such as he had formerly produced but carvings whose power would be totemic rather than artistic. Lacking the facilities, the tools, the technical experience and the time to spare, he often took to doing paintings as surrogates for sculpture. To give them a tribal air, he used herringbone hatching to simulate scarification and tattooing as in Nu à la draperie: tête de femme (Étude).19 Picasso had learned from labels in the Musée d’Ethnographie that a fetish could fortify its maker’s creative power and protect him against enemies, maladies and death. It is the belief in the magic of handiwork that endowed the African sculptures with their shamanistic force. He would never part with these “guardian figures” he created (Richardson 1996, p. 40).
As Flam and Deutch report, Vlaminck recognized that it was Picasso who first “understood the lessons one could learn from the sculptural conceptions of African and Oceanic art and progressively incorporated these into his painting” (Flam and Deutch 2003, p. 28). He stretched the forms, lengthened, flattened and recomposed them on his canvas; painted them with unmodulated colors, just as the Negroes did for their idols and fetishes. In doing do, we may say he initiated Cubism, or at least Proto-Cubism. Its poetic reshaping of perception was very much part of the primitivistic thrust of twentieth-century art, of its longing to recapture something of the so-called primitive experience of participation mystique (Tucker 1992, pp. 27–48). Turner argues that modern art would be distinguished above all by the challenging quality of its own thought, its ideas about the world. Such ideas would be “embodied in” rather than “illustrated by” the materials and forms of art, developing through the artist’s complete involvement in the manipulation the medium. It is this approach that gives modern art its potential to be “a truly transformative activity” (Tucker 1992, pp. 49–75).
His assimilation of the formal freedoms of art nègre, not just stylistically but as a way of thinking, made possible a real break with existing concepts. As Gertrude Stein stated, “it must never be forgotten that the reality of the twentieth century was not at all the reality of the nineteenth, and Picasso has been the only one to have felt this in painting, really the only one. The struggle to express it became increasingly intense” (Vallentin 1963, pp. 79–80). The perspectival space perfected in the Renaissance was giving way to a renewed emphasis on the integrity of the picture plane. The tools invented five centuries earlier for creating a convincing illusion were not discarded but deployed in a deliberately disruptive way. Planes overlapped and interpenetrated, tilting this way and that in vertiginous cascades. Unger saw the obvious sexual ramifications of the new approach: “Shading is not only inconsistent but paradoxical, so that forms seemed to protrude and recede simultaneously. The curtain, which shifted position and even color as it slithered across the surface of the canvas, highlighted this game of penetration and projection. Void was as palpable as solid; figure and ground became part of a single, accordion-like membrane. The women themselves may be singularly unsexy, given their angularity, but the rhythmic push and pull to which space is subjected diffuses the erotic charge across the entire surface of the canvas” (Unger 2018, pp. 325–27).
By the end of summer, the artist had set the large painting aside for good.20 In its final version the figures had replaced a self-sufficient narrative with one in which the viewers, are required to complete its meaning. The five women display themselves for us, both alluring and horrifying at the same time; fixing us in their accusatory stare, creating, in Leo Steinberg’s memorable phrase, “the startled consciousness of a viewer who sees himself seen” (Unger 2018, p. 320). It had ended up as a hybrid of primitive styles, with dissimilar Iberian and tribal forms squaring off against each other to create a jarring, dissonant effect. The long period covered by the execution of the canvas corresponds more or less to what has been called “the dismantling of the classical image” (Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 39–42). Subsequent works, with priority given to abstract form and “pure” plastic rhythms, would produce a new type of image, no longer based on the relationship with external reality, but on the formal power of expression and spatial architecture. Picasso would not hesitate to distort the human figure, chopping it up into fragments and scattering them, representing, for example, a face in frontal view but with the nose as a flat profile” (Seckel 1996, pp. 24–26). As Daix proclaims, the age of science had arrived, the moment when, in order to represent physical phenomena correctly, scientists and artists had to disregard physical appearances and common sense (Daix 1965, pp. 66–68; Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 23–26). Paul Waldo Schwartz describes “the furious motion in the painting [that] prefaces the stillness of the Cubist ideal just as the explosion of a celestial body precedes a new formation of bodies in coordinated movement” (Schwartz 1971, pp. 26–30).
Most Fridays, Picasso visited Matisse’s studio; most Saturdays, they met at the Steins (Richardson 1996, p. 43). “With his carefully trimmed beard, gold spectacles and well-cut tweeds, Henri looked more like a professor than a painter. Pablo, on the other hand, had adopted the proletarian air of a mechanic. Gertrude and Leo were beginning to relish the power that patronage conferred and, consciously or not, pitted the artists against one another at their soirées—occasions that were already reputed in social and artistic circles to be gladiatorial. Whereas the Frenchman displayed “an astonishing lucidity of mind, was precise, concise and intelligent and impressed people”; the Spaniard would be “sullen and inhibited. He was easily irritated by people who tried to question him about his work; tried to make him explain what he was unable to explain” (Olivier 1933, p. 139; Richardson 1991, p. 416). It is possibly during this period that Apollinaire came to see Les demoiselles d’Avignon, bringing with him the critic Félix Fénéon. The poet found the picture incomprehensible; the critic advised the painter to devote himself to caricature (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 346; Unger 2018, p. 324; also Parmelin 1966, p. 37). He took ridicule as a challenge and used it as a stimulus to further effort along the same lonely and exalted path (Penrose 1981, p. 131). Eventually, he started turning in earnest to wood carving with Figure21 and Homme debout.22 In these works we detect the influence again of both African art and Gauguin. As Marilyn McCully notes, “keen to understand, if not appropriate, the stylistic means by which the French artist had transformed ‘primitivism’ in his own art, he carved and incised the material, retaining the structure, shape, and rough quality of the pieces of wood he had selected, much as the makers of the museum’s African spirit figures, masks, and statues had done” (McCully 2007, p. 30). He took the elements of Negro sculpture and recombined them into a new aesthetic. His works had an “unfinished” quality about them that was entirely untypical of the usually meticulous craftsmanship of African art. They had a free and sketchlike quality in which parts were roughly indicated or incompletely realized. Abstracted in an angular fashion, they had little sense of coherent plasticity, giving them rather the effect of being cut out of cardboard which is bent to give the ebb and flow of planes with but little feeling for volume (Gray 1953, pp. 51–54).
On 28 September, Olivier and Picasso were invited to the Steins’ (Simon 1977, pp. 55, 64). “I’m very upset”, said Pablo. “You know very well, Gertrude, I am never late, but Fernande had ordered a dress for the vernissage tomorrow and it didn’t come” (Stein 1961, p. 12). From this, one may gather that they were planning to attend the Salon d’Automne which ran from 1 October through 22 October at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élyseés (Cousins and Seckel 1994, p. 153; Richardson 1996, p. 50; Unger 2018, p. 343). Matisse was exhibiting several works, but more importantly, it included a Cézanne retrospective (Roe 2015, p. 203). Comprising fifty-six of his works, most of them oils, it featured a group of late paintings, among them some nominally “unfinished” (Golding 1968, p. 64; Fluegel 1980, p. 88). It had not been until his final years that the painter had begun to have wider public appeal. Now he had become the focus of attention of the avant-garde. Leo Stein recounted this transformation: “Hitherto Cézanne had been important only for the few; he was about to become important for everybody. At the Salon d’Automne of 1905 people laughed themselves into hysterics before his pictures, in 1906 they were respectful, and in 1907 they were reverent. Cézanne had become the man of the moment” (Baumann et al. 2004, p. 182). “For us, Cézanne was like a mother who protects her children … He was my one and only master … I’ve spent years studying his pictures … Cézanne! He was as you might say a father to us all. It was he who protected us”, he would later say (O’Brian 1994, p. 156; Richardson 1991, pp. 469–71; Richardson 1996, p. 52). In spite of his unshakable determination and his dominating personality, Picasso’s was a lonely spirit, often tormented by doubt; and he found deep comfort, a source of strength, in the knowledge that another genius mind had moved in the same direction as his, grappling with the same problems and arriving at not dissimilar answers.
Of the master of Aix, Picasso had said: “The reason why Cézanne was Cézanne is that he did concentrate: when he was confronted with a tree he looked hard at what was there before his eyes; he looked at it as hard as a man with a gun aiming at his quarry. If he fixed his eye on a leaf, he never let it go. And since he had the leaf, he had the branch. And the tree could never get away. Even if he only had the leaf, that was worthwhile. Often enough painting is no more than that … You have to put all your concentration into it … Oh, if only everyone could do just that!” (O’Brian 1994, p. 168). The Spaniard believed in two ways of seeing things, “the one by just looking at them and the other by gazing at them with real attention. Just looking is merely the eye’s natural reception of the shape and likeness of the thing seen. Gazing with real attention is not only that but also an intense study of the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the object. So it might be said that what I call just looking is a physical operation and what I call gazing is an operation of the mind” (Kozloff 1973, pp. 18–26). Cézanne likewise wanted to “graph the very fluctuations of seeing”. Eventually, Cubism would propose that the work of art was itself a reality that represented the very process by which nature is transformed into art. In the new world it created, no fact of vision remained absolute, thus expressing an awareness of the paradoxical nature of reality and the need for describing it in multiple and even contradictory ways (Rosenblum 1976, pp. 13–14). Adolphe Basler has traced what he calls the “cerebralization” of modern painting to Cézanne. Up to the beginning of the century, the artist used to paint more or less as he saw; since then he has begun to paint as he conceives. Picasso was destined to complete the cerebralization of art in his time (Vallentin 1963, p. 79).
Through 15 October, Cézanne’s letters to Emile Bernard were published in the Mercure de France, notably the famous one dated 15 April 1904: “Allow me to repeat what I told you here: handle nature through cylinders, spheres, cones, all placed in perspective … Lines perpendicular to this horizon provide depth. And nature, for we humans, is more a question of depth than surface” (Golding 1968, p. 64; Richardson 1996, p. 50; Baldassari 2007, p. 335; Roe 2015, p. 204; Unger 2018, p. 353). When Braque went to L’Estaque around this time, his style underwent a major change, having also seen the retrospective. “I realized that the exaltation that had overwhelmed me during my first visit [to the Midi] and which I had transmitted onto canvas was no longer the same. I saw that there was something further. I had to cast around for another means of self-expression more in keeping with my nature” (Richardson 1996, p. 68). He would paint his first conception of Le viaduc de l’Estaque before returning to Paris in late October or early November. He and Pablo studied Cézanne in a more or less constructive fashion. That is to say, they seized on an element of structural and formal strength in his work, which they saw as a corrective to the formlessness that had characterized so much French painting since the Impressionists had insisted on the validity of an instantaneous form of vision, which had so often dissolved the solidity of the material world into a haze of atmospheric color and light. They saw, too, in his obvious concern with purely pictorial problems an antidote to the emotionalism and decorative symbolism of so much other post-Impressionist painting (Golding 1968, p. 65).
Gertrude and Alice visited the Bateau-Lavoir on 9 or 10 October. They provided an overview of the studio: “Against the wall was an enormous picture, a strange picture of light and dark colors, that is all I can say, of a group, an enormous group and next to it another in a sort of a red brown, of three women, square and posturing, all of it rather frightening” (Stein 1961, pp. 20–22; Cousins and Seckel 1994, p. 154). Their description corresponds to contemporaneous photographs showing Les demoiselles d’Avignon (Richardson 1996, p. 57) and also, more or less concealed next to early, the “primitivist” state of Trois femmes.23 The latter would become the most ambitious Negro painting of this period. From first to last it remained a distinctly sculptural painting, with the accent on projecting volumes, solid mass, weight and gravity rather than surface decoration. When reworking the faces, Picasso somewhat toned down the allusion to tribal masks. One motive was, presumably, to unify the heads and bodies and create a more harmonious ensemble. The women were to be primitive dryads rather than accusing and commanding idols. Aside from the generalized debt to masks, the main reference to tribal art is through the imitation of techniques of woodcarving (Cowling 2002, pp. 115–94).
According to Steinberg, the canvas represents the sexes struggling for definition. The central figure is androgynous, a creature yearning for sexual identity, which comes to fruition on the two figures at right and left. The blank eyes signify a lack of self-awareness; the “masks” are a sign for the “primitive” in the sense of a primordial substance that gives birth to sexual difference. The striving of the side figures deforms them, allowing them to emerge from an undifferentiated origin in the center of the composition into their separate identities. The energy of the struggle is that of libido, a sexual energy. Picasso asserts through his painting that the form demanded by a different kind of human figure cannot be subsumed within a homogenizing painting procedure (like Cézanne’s), and that it must be achieved by absorbing only certain aspects of his practice (in the merging of planes that make up the composition) and blending them with alternative forms of figuration. In the critic’s words, “he was resisting Cézanne” (Steinberg 2007, p. 79; also Cox 2010, pp. 92–93). However, although tribal sculpture would continue to play a covert psychic role in his art, Cézanne progressively dictated Pablo’s choice of subjects and, to some extent, his syntax” (Richardson 1996, p. 57). Most of his contemporaries, including his closest friends and fellow artists, had dismissed Les Demoiselles as a monstrous aberration, a bizarre experiment gone awry. To them, the grafting of Africanized elements on to primitive Iberian figures seemed incoherent and unresolved, or simply downright grotesque. Picasso realized that in his next major canvas he needed to achieve the degree of pictorial integration and unity that the previous work lacked. The exhibition of ten paintings by Cézanne in the 1906 Salon d’Automne, following the artist’s recent death, and the full-scale retrospective at the recent Salon d’Automne had convinced him to make the decisive move (Christie’s 2007a, cat. no. 0049, 1900).
Work on the large canvas was concurrent with a series of gouaches and drawings Picasso executed late in the year, where he transformed Cézanne bathers into a frieze of hybrid women, naked except for a towel or two, and striking physique-contest poses, setting them off against a vault of trees on the bank of a river or lake, indicated by the front of a boat in the immediate foreground. In the interest of tension, unity and drama, he soon abandoned the horizontal format and over the next six months chopped up the picture into component parts: monumental threesomes, homogenized couples and androgynous single figures with raised elbows (Richardson 1996, p. 55). In works like Trois femmes: nu debout (Étude),24 we run into what Kahnweiler called “the mad audacity with which Picasso grappled with all problems simultaneously”. The abandonment of perspective, the conquest of space by the fractioning of planes, heavily outlined flat tones or hatching (Daix 1965, p. 71). We find yet another major bid to synthesize the sexes, as he scaled up the figure into a monumental androgyny with a mandorla shaped diaphragm that stands for both phallus and vagina. As John Richardson asserts, he wanted to inaugurate a new human race—native of no identifiable place. “They would be his own Frankensteins: a bit of this and a bit of that, and by virtue of being outside time and place and even gender, they would be instrumental in establishing primitivism as the look of modernism” (Richardson 1996, p. 56).
The compositions became engulfed in obsessive graphic rhythms, strong color contrasts, and stylization pushed to the point of abstraction. This resulted in monumental nudes, often set in imaginary forests. He was in fact looking for a system of construction, a spatial organization of the composition, which did not depend on any external scaffolding, nor on illusionist tricks, but on the authentic expression of the intrinsic qualities of the figures and on the arrangement of the physical qualities of paint on canvas, on lines of force and how color appears to the eye. As Liliane Brion-Guerry has argued, it was not just preoccupation with the constructive expression of the figures that created the spatial unity, but the fact that space itself became an integral part of the construction (Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 47–48).
Early in 1908, Georges and Pablo were constantly in each other’s company, exploring rather than denying the similarities in their work. Both were striving for a pictorial synthesis, moving away from mimesis and aiming for the creation, rather than simply the illustration, of an experience on canvas (Roe 2015, p. 234). Braque was at work on Le grand nu, which he would complete in mid-March, just before the opening of the Indépendants (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 349). Daily contact between them seems to have had the effect of making the mercurial Spaniard work in a more methodical and consistent fashion, building upon previous achievements, rather than setting off suddenly on a new tack. A gradual but inexorable shedding of the illusion of perspective, solidity and fixed identity occurred as he pressed on with his investigation of the limits and potential of his “analytical” style. Apollinaire later wrote: “A man like Picasso studies an object as a surgeon dissects a cadaver” (Cowling 2002, pp. 201–17). These renewed efforts would mark the next stage of Trois femmes. Picasso had seen in the Salon des Indépendants Derain’s La Toilette which depicted three nudes, and Braque’s Le grand nu, which combined three different views of a nude woman. All three artists seemed to be vying for the honor of being seen as Cézanne’s successor, and Pablo was once again eager to resume his painting in a Cézannian manner, that is, through the treatment of volume by means of modeled planar forms. He would continue to work on the painting until well into the fall, with another hiatus during the summer (Christie’s 2007a, cat. no. 0049, 1900).
That spring, as Picasso painted a number of still lifes—the oils Bols et cruche (Cruche, bol et compotier)25 and Carafe et trois bols;26 and the gouache Bol vert et tomates.27 In them, hatchings rapidly yielded to a direct presentation of objects in the round. By their very simplicity the items collected on the table anticipated the reign of humble daily life which was soon to prevail: glasses, bowls and bottles seen from above. They, however, had acquired a new solidity and seemed to be carved in wood, even those which their color revealed to consist of metal or glass. Objects formed a compact mass, obscuring one another “as though to prevent the air from circulating” (Vallentin 1963, p. 91). For the third work, the influence of the master of Aix is especially evident in the strong palette and the dynamic execution. The deeply saturated and dark-valued pigments give the work a rich tonality and strong plasticity. Picasso had been particularly impressed by the creative force of the Frenchman’s active brushwork (Christie’s 1999, cat. no. 507, 6146). He said: “As soon as Cézanne begins to make the first stroke, the picture is already there” (Richardson 1996, p. 50).
In the first oil, the compote with the perfunctorily painted four green apples retained its own identity, albeit its pedestal appears carved rather than modeled and placed on a flat piece of cardboard as its base. Robert Rosenblum comments about this painting: “Strange elisions of planes, contradictory light sources, autonomous patterns of brushwork—such devices compress these volumes into a shallow space in which adjacent planes are interlocked in a nervous shifting of concave and convex surfaces that undermines the effects of traditional chiaroscuro and perspective” (Rosenblum 1967, p. 175). In the second oil, the light from a hanging lamp makes the bowls look round. The contrast of colors—orange, red, black, grey—was somewhat less hallucinatory. At the same time, it did not lack its mysteries, as the orange bowl in the background, for example, loomed up behind the carafe. One enigmatic element was the contrast between that pivotal container, which was enclosed by the cup placed delicately on top of it, and the ellipses of the other four vessels, all open and all empty (Boggs 1992, pp. 57–58). The viewpoint clearly derived from Cézanne’s perspective (Daix 1965, p. 73), but what perhaps distinguishes it was Picasso’s anxiety to keep open the collapsed intervals between objects that tend to upstage one another. Although the four vessels and the wayward shadows they cast were arrayed to trace a continuously looped surface rhythm, viewed in recession, they stood apart. Cups, bowl, and bottle, each had its contour lifted off from the form behind, either by dint of shadow or by a warm atmospheric glow; not like Cézanne’s all-enveloping air, but as directed air circulating in staggered intervals in the spaces between (Steinberg 2007, p. 88).
That season he also worked on figure compositions. In Femme à l’éventail,28 with her white shift, rigid pose and throne-like seat, the life-sized figure seems like a priestess withdrawn in profound meditation, and since the viewpoint demands that we look up at her, we are bound to feel overawed. Cowling points out that the mask-like head, conceptualized anatomy and geometric treatment of the throne allude to an African Fang sculpture. Counterbalancing these allusions, the white shift and one uncovered breast are unmissable references to Greco-Roman reliefs and statues of Ariadne, the Bacchantes and other erotic heroines. Invoking the irrational “Dionysiac” strain in classical culture justified the merging of the classical and the tribal (Cowling 2002, pp. 194–99). It might have been the impact of Matisse’s Baigneuses avec une tortue that contributed to Pablo’s abandonment of primitivist excesses. He was constantly refining his primitivism, converging with the timelessness of Cézanne, whom he constantly kept in his sight (Daix 2007, pp. 23–24).
Buste de femme accoudée (Femme dormante)29 represents a nude woman half-length, upright, asleep and in stark proximity to the viewer. She is depicted in the sparest economy of graphic means: black contour lines, mostly straight, overlapping, with color held down to a minimum. The concentration on a single device—rigid rods crossing over and under—is astonishing in its effective evocation of mass. As Steinberg maintains, if Picasso was at this moment undergoing the influence of Cézanne, then he must have seen his painting take the opposite course, that is to say, toward a system which questioned the very reality of overlappings. The painting must then be read as “sheer recalcitrance” (Steinberg 2007, p. 87).
After 2 May and the closing of the Salon des lndépendants, Braque recovered his paintings, and before 1 June, went to L’Estaque, a small port in the vicinity of Marseille where Cézanne had once worked,30 in order to help organize the upcoming show of the Cercle de l’Art Moderne, which would open in June.31 He would remain there until early September (Cousins and Daix 1989, pp. 352–53). While in Provence, he executed a series of landscape paintings utilizing Picasso’s still unfinished Trois femmes’s model of faceted, interlocking forms, arranged in a shallow space like that of a bas-relief (Karmel 2007, p. 152). He would later tell Dora Vallier: “I found that the exaltation that had overwhelmed me on my first visit, and which I put into my [fauve] pictures, was no longer the same” (Richardson 1996, p. 97). He abandoned the last vestiges of wild coloring and limited the palette to a Cézannesque gamut of viridian, ochers, grays and blacks. It was by composition alone that he now started to reveal the structural aspects of the chosen subject. He managed to shape the volumes through the shimmer of his brushstrokes, thereby appropriating an overlooked (or poorly observed) Cézannist technique (Daix 2007, pp. 22–23).
On 26 May, Pablo wrote to the Steins in Fiesole, and told them that work on Trois femmes was progressing. Although he was still using hatching and primitivist deformations, African elements in his work were receding in favor of relief effects influenced by Cézanne, probably related to Braque’s Cézannist reductivism of Le grand nu, which he must have seen before his friend’s departure (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 352; Baldassari 2007, p. 336). His work on the large composition had been painfully slow and disappointing. He had completely repainted it each time he turned to it. He was at the same time working on other studies of nudes, perhaps in the hope that they would help to clarify and resolve some of the issues that had blocked his ability to finish the canvas. If the project had owed its initial theme and some of its characters to Cézanne, the debt in the subsequent version would be even more substantial: a faceted surface with no recessed intervals and no gaps; figures and ground near homogeneous; broken planes set off by minor chromatic or tonal shifts; and a compression of the depth of field to give that illusion of bas-relief which deploys nothing but fronts (Steinberg 2007, pp. 75–76).
Looking at the late Cézanne bathers, Picasso was also considering the integration of the figure within a more open scenery. During that spring and early summer he painted a series of imaginary landscapes like Paysage,32 which shows him breaking down the background, reducing it to a bare and expressive minimum. He gave the landscape an almost faceted appearance through which to convey a sense of three-dimensionality. In this he appears to pay homage once again to the master of Aix, taking his earlier experiments to a new extreme (Christie’s 2007b, cat. no. 0120, 1902). In Paysage,33 he translated the figural forms into a densely wooded scenery, filled with twisted, thorny and impenetrable forms, which may reflect the impasse at which he had arrived in his large figure composition (Christie’s 2007a, cat. no. 0048, 1900). This Dantesque setting may allude to a tragic incident on June 1, in which the young German painter Karl-Heinz Wiegels, with whom Pablo and Fernande were very close, killed himself while in a drug-induced delirium (Richardson 1996, p. 87; Daix 2007, p. 24; Baldassari 2007, p. 336; Caruncho and Fàbregas 2017, p. 70). He had seen his friend’s body dangling in the window, which became a nightmarish vision he would never forget. His death so frightened him that he resolved to change his ways. She wrote: “Once in a while we would go back to taking opium. We did this until a tragedy unfolded before our eyes, until, that is, our neighbor the German painter Wiegels committed suicide. After an eventful evening during which he had successively taken ether, hashish, and opium, he failed to recover his sense, and in his madness hanged himself a few days later in spite of the care with which we looked after him. This taught us a lesson, and being very shaken up, we decided never to touch drugs again” (Olivier 2001, p. 216; also Roe 2015, p. 239). The jagged, shard-like forms in the gouache are remarkably and uniquely expressionistic—there is an almost tormented sense of awareness that compels the artist to become one with the landscape. “I want to see my branches grow”, he told Malraux. “That’s why I started to paint trees; yet I never paint them from nature. My trees are myself” (Richardson 1996, p. 93). Olivier added: For some time the studio where he had died became a place of terror for us, and the poor man appeared to us everywhere, hanging as he had been the last time we ever saw him” (Olivier 2001, p. 216). Nature morte à la tête de mort,34 completed in late spring, was also possibly painted to commemorate Wiegels’s death (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 353).
Nu appuyé (Femme étendue)35 from this same period belonged to a project for two bathers, one standing and one reclining, against a forest background Vue du lac entre deux baigneurs (Étude).36 What attracted him most about this motif was, on the one hand, the sculptural sense of mass and weight that gave the ungainly bodies such a potent physical presence, and on the other the oppressive intensity of mood, the sense of an internalized drama that we also saw in the previous works. Cézanne’s example aided the understanding, absorption and integration of the lessons of art nègre because it was felt there were conceptual and structural affinities between the rough-hewn geometry, arbitrary anatomy and rugged monumentality of his late figure style and the conventions of certain types of tribal carving. Picasso’s own hatched brush marks simultaneously allude to both the grooved, grainy surfaces of primitive wood carvings and to the master’s so-called “constructive” stroke (Cowling 2002, pp. 194–99). Unlike the abstract faceting of the more Cézannesque nudes mentioned earlier, the forms here were relentlessly sculptural, while the strong emphasis on the mass of the individual body parts was clearly indebted to the imaginative restructurings of the human figure in Negro art. With its bulging musculature, spherical head and breasts, and the exaggerated torsion of its pose, the figure also recalled Matisse’s Nu bleu (Souvenir de Biskra), itself a fusion of European and African influences, which had scandalized the public and bewildered the critics at the Salon des Indépendants the previous year (Christie’s 2013, cat. no. 13, 3442). He was juxtaposing his work with his.
Matisse was on a trip to Germany with Hans Purrmann, his first one to that country (Elderfield 1992, p. 181). Meanwhile Derain was spending the summer at Martigues, where Vlaminck later joined him. On arrival at Marseilles, the latter was revitalized, enchanted by the sight of the old harbor, bathed in light: “It seemed as though everything was seen through a silken gauze … The rosy blue rings, touched with gold, made me think of some immaterial world”… What would become Cubism was gradually separating the artists into different camps: it would set Picasso apart not only from Matisse, but also from Derain and Vlaminck. By contrast, his collaboration with Georges would deepen. The two artists continued to work intensively, both separately and together, to sharpen their perceptions and see how far it could possibly take them (Roe 2015, p. 248). Braque had rented a room at Hôtel Maurin in L’Estaque for the summer. Although just twenty kilometers from Martigues where Derain was staying, the artistic distance between them had increased. Of Cézanne’s effect on him, Braque later declared: “It was more than an influence, it was an initiation. Cézanne was the first to have broken away from erudite, mechanized perspective”… During his sojourn there, he would execute a series of “full-blown Cubist landscapes” including Maisons à l’Estaque, marking his complete departure from Fauvism (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 353).
While many contemporary historians and critics saw a direct connection between Cubism and Fauvism, this existed only in the most general interpretation. A tendency to take greater liberties with visual appearances was the only very broad sense in which Fauvism foreshadowed the later movement. Cubism, on the other hand, led to greater abstraction due to the fact that the vision of those who implemented it was conceptual and intellectual rather than physical and sensory (Golding 1968, pp. 16–17). In this they followed Cézanne, who apart from emphasizing the two-dimensional plane on which he was working, by tipping forward certain objects, he also gave the impression that he was adopting variable or movable viewpoints, thus synthesizing into a single image the information gathered from looking at things from successive viewpoints, as Golding explains (Golding 1968, pp. 69–71).
Indeed, the older painter had found himself torn between two apparently irreconcilable poles: on the one hand, the fragmentary and inconstant nature of the visual perceptions he trusted so passionately; and on the other, his ambition for an art that had constancy and a composite finality. He realized that painting had to be a question of the eye and the brain working together to organize visual sensations into a coherent, permanent structure. It consisted of seeking the expression of what one knows, in organizing perception into a personal aesthetic. Equally, Picasso was quoted as saying: “Nature and art being two different things cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not” (Wadley 1970, pp. 29–30). We can think of modernism itself as a gradual split in the connection between representation and its referent. And yet, as Krauss indicates, there was an expressed concern that abstraction, trafficking in the token as an utterly empty sign, might lead to language that means nothing at all, to an emptying out of meaning, signs circulating without a “convertible” base in the world of nature (Krauss 1998, pp. 6–18). Picasso always denied that his painting was abstract.
As late summer approached, Pablo postponed any plans for a trip to Spain to continue working on Trois femmes. He overpainted the lateral faces in a black linear mode, divergent not only from Braque and Cézanne but, more pertinently, from the original state still visible in some sections. In the process, he produced once again, as in Les demoiselles d’Avignon, a disruptive internal mutation. Steinberg argues that this was intentional. He was struggling with a world that was not his. An artist like him, whose possessive sight must grapple the thing it sees, demands complementary selves in responsive embodiment. Cézanne’s method, therefore, may have struck him as a threat to his own field of action; “it abrogated the very conditions that made the world fit for contest, encounter, embrace (Steinberg 2007, pp. 79–80, 83–84). The weather was stiflingly hot and the Bateau-Lavoir an oven. Pablo, who suffered from the heat, often worked naked; and Fernande also went around in little more than a shift (Richardson 1996, p. 87). So it is no wonder that physical contact was in his mind. In the end, however, Cézannism would prevail.
Throughout the summer, Picasso turned more and more toward that direction. The paintings he executed evoked the tranquility of the remote riverside farmland on La-Rue-des-Bois where he had temporarily relocated with Fernande. No cafés, or shops or sights to see, not even a road junction, just ten non-descript houses and barns scattered either side of a country road. Nature invaded his canvases, a dark green saturated with gold and harmonizing with the warm, russet tone which he was using (Vallentin 1963, pp. 92–94; Palau i Fabre 1990, pp. 104–6; Richardson 1996, p. 93). In the oils Maisonette dans un jardin (Maisonnette et arbres)37 and Paysage: La Rue-des-Bois,38 he was more interested in mass than space, and at first he practiced passage only insofar as it enabled him to homogenize and amplify the massiveness of his figures (Richardson 1996, p. 97). In the second canvas, the composition is structured by the lines of the tree branches that frame a view of the landscape beyond. “Nature should be rendered as cylinders, spheres, cones, and the whole put into perspective”, Cézanne had written. Accordingly, in the center of the painting there is a mass of very strongly modelled geometric volumes—most likely rocks—that have not been set off by outlines, but that have been built up only with colors that seem to project their own light (Seckel 1996, p. 32). Since he could never depict anything without to some degree identifying with it, he assumed the role of genius loci in these landscapes, investing the trees with his own life force, as if he were reinventing the universe in his image (Richardson 1996, p. 93).
In Maisonnette dans un jardin,39 he reduced the subject, restraining it to contrasts between the geometry of houses and the curvilineal trees in the surroundings, which he also reduced to their basic structure. These landscapes are airless; volumes fill them to the point of giving the impression they are about to overflow. Here again, the contrasts between the geometrical buildings and the rhythmic vegetation displayed frequent transitional gaps, recalling Cézannian passages. The novelty was that the simplification was extreme, perhaps evoking Rousseau (Daix 2007, p. 26). He was beguiled by the intensity of the naïve artist’s sense of reality. You’ve got to make what doesn’t exist, what has never been made before. That’s painting. The Douanier was useful as an antidote to Cézanne’s sway; he represented the opposite end of the pictorial spectrum. Whereas the former was totally conceptual in his approach and almost as much of a devotee of high finish as Gérôme, the latter was totally perceptual and used lack of finish as a positive element in his work.
The presence of Rousseau would also be felt in some of the still lifes. Le Douanier was evoked in the naiveté and self-conscious frontality of Vase de fleurs, verre de vin, et cuillère,40 with its precise and stylized rendering of the flowers and leaves. The colors of the flowers seldom break beyond the greens, rose, and grays of the rest of the painting except in a sporadic touch of yellow. The background was a cold gray, and the top of the table was slightly bent, only vaguely of a copper tone. So as to mark his kept allegiance, the furniture features a conspicuous drawer that reminds us of Cézanne, who had often included that element in his still lifes (Boggs 1992, pp. 60–61). He had spent time absorbing the lessons of the old master. Objects were approached with certain “pre-existent ideas” of form, but they still played a major role in the structuring of the composition. There was a “logic”. But there was also an object to which the logic had to be applied (Gray 1953, pp. 51–54). Other works like Nature morte au bouquet de fleurs41 resonated with the geometric forms and earthy tones that had dominated the Frenchman’s more mature paintings. Remarkable in it is an early inclination to simplify and detach the shadows cast by objects on the surfaces, presaging the particular use of passage, that would characterize the high Cubist still life several years later (Sotheby’s 2014, cat. no. 27, N09219).
While in La Rue-des-Bois, he was particularly taken with the hulking form of their landlady, a woman of mythic proportions—over six feet tall and weighing almost three hundred pounds—known as Madame Putman. He painted her multiple times in oils like La fermière: buste42 and La fermière en pied.43 In the latter, her hands hang massively while enormous biceps protrude to the sides. She looks like a primitive effigy seemingly hacked out of wood. The orange-brown skin stands out against a green background (Vallentin 1963, p. 93). Her head is treated as a columnar extension of her thick neck, her face flat as the sawn-off stump of a tree, onto which minimal features—a tiny wedge of a nose, vestigial eyes (no mouth)—have been grafted. In her blue dress, she seems immutable, impossible to uproot, like a spirit of the soil. The upward angling of the face derived from the tribal formula he had used before, but the style now suggests the influence of Rousseau and Cézanne combined (Richardson 1996, p. 94; Roe 2015, p. 243).
The human figure has always played a much more important part in the work of Picasso than in that of Braque, and the Spaniard looked with particular interest at Cézanne’s figure work. What seems to have fascinated him about the painter’s figure studies and portraits, besides his obvious interest in their structural formal properties, is the complete neglect of details, which was at times extended even to a disregard of the individual facial features. Oddly, this was mixed with an extremely elaborate build-up of form in terms of small flat planes based on empirical observation, which, following countless adjustments, fuse into the whole and become inseparable from each other (Golding 1968, p. 72). For the artist, the painting became the expression of a stylized world, filled to overflowing with bulky volumes, an airless world in which distances were compressed as by a telephoto lens, unfolded and came alive before our eyes. Picasso emulated his technique of redistributing the real volumes in his picture in terms of the formal demands of the composition. Henceforth, the intellectual organization of the canvas had the last word (Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 50–53).
As he built his compositions, he was faced with a dialectic between his own vehemence, his violent impulses, and his urge to understand what he painted, because painting after all was for him a form of mental computation, involving his whole intelligence as well as his keen sensitivity. What interested him, as can be seen from his sketchbooks, was to clarify the devices whereby an image was constituted. He demanded from objects and figures that they show what he knew of them that established conventions had prevented him from stating (Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 181–82). The metaphorical model of Cubism is the diagram: the diagram being a visible, symbolic representation of invisible processes, forces, structures. Like science, which was increasingly showing that nature was quite dissimilar to the way it is experienced, art now revealed the same about the object of perception. The picture could deny or even largely exclude observation of physical images, and it might be said to already exist within that picture as reflections of a mental process. This validated the Cubist enterprise that attempted to capture the immutable idea of an object, rather than rendering it by some personal interpretation of its changing and certainly deceptive appearance (Wadley 1970, p. 12; Kozloff 1973, pp. 6–8).
After returning from La Rue-des-Bois, Picasso continued to paint other still lifes, focusing on a few substantial objects, like the apples and pears in Fruits et verre.44 As Rubin puts it, they seem to “temper the sophistication of Cézanne with the simplicity of Rousseau” (Rubin 1972, p. 48). They were an exaggeration of those found in the former, but stylized in the spirit of the latter. Pears, particularly, proved to have dramatic possibilities. Later he would vary their forms and their colors, often finding considerable similarities between the fruit and a human body. Already here, the darker and more unequivocally shaped pear balances somewhat tentatively in the shadow, while the two in the foreground are more assertive. The one closer to the viewer, in particular, shares human qualities as it lunges to the left but is pulled back by its stem which leans toward the other pear and the glass (Boggs 1992, p. 11). It was in discussing this work that Rubin also noted Picasso’s adoption of Cézanne’s simulacrum of a bas-relief, where objects are modeled as if they did not have backs, that is, they do not create the illusion of space behind them. It is this type of accommodation of modeled forms to the two-dimensional surface, and their disposition in sequential groupings, that he now adopts (Steinberg 2007, pp. 88–89).
In late September, he met with Braque on his return from L’Estaque (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 358; Mahler 2015, p. 58); the six landscapes he had brought back had been rejected by the Salon d’Automne. One felt that the forms in these paintings had not been suggested by those of particular landscapes but rather that he had imposed his own austere, angular, almost geometrical form of vision on the natural scenery (Golding 1968, pp. 66–68). He would later say: “You see, the whole Renaissance tradition is antipathetic to me. The hard-and-fast rules of perspective which it succeeded in imposing on art were a ghastly mistake which it has taken four centuries to redress: Cézanne and, after him, Picasso and myself can take a lot of the credit for this. Scientific perspective is nothing but eye-fooling illusionism; it is simply a trick—a bad trick-which makes it impossible for an artist to convey a full experience of space, since it forces the objects in a picture to disappear away from the beholder instead of bringing them within his reach, as painting should” (Richardson 1996, p. 97). Matisse provided further details of those works: “He brought back from the south a Mediterranean landscape that represented a seaside village seen from above. In order to give more importance to the roofs, which were few, as they would be in a village, in order to let them stand out in the ensemble of the landscape, and at the same time develop the idea of humanity that they stood for, he had continued the signs that represented the roofs in the drawing on into the sky and had painted them throughout the sky. This is really the first picture constituting the origin of Cubism, and we considered it as something quite new, about which there were many discussions” (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 355). In fact the cubes from which the term derived, or rather the straight lines and the geometric simplifications they included, were merely a secondary effect, a surface manifestation of a research into pictorial space and how it could be made to coincide with the surface of the canvas to give a sensation of depth the fruits of which would only be collected much later (Daix and Rosselet 1979, p. 63).
Aware of a certain complementarity between them, Picasso and Braque established a friendly partnership such as neither artist had ever experienced. Pablo quickly assimilated the way Georges had taken Cézanne further, so that the final version of Trois femmes shimmered with Cézannesque vibrations (Daix 2007, p. 27), the early African striations were now replaced with close-valued faceting of earth tones, green, and gray in a shallow bas-relief space (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 365; Fluegel 1980, p. 89). The superimposition of geometric facets on the interlocking shapes gives the impression that the picture as a whole forms a single, continuous surface molded into advancing and receding planes (Karmel 1993, pp. 34–35; Karmel 2007, p. 152; Steinberg 2007, pp. 75–89).
Henceforth, it was the composition, by its contrasting rhythms, which revealed the structural element in the motif—always supposing that this is legible. In the artist’s words, “the aim is not to reconstitute an anecdotal fact but to constitute a pictorial fact … The subject is not the object; it is the new unity, the lyricism which stems entirely from the means employed” (Kozloff 1973, pp. 9–12). The experience of creating is neither prefigured nor confirmed by ideas gathered through perceptions of the world. Just as the eye does not mirror the world but fabricates one individual’s image of reality, so the artist does not construct the object; he constructs his picture. Thus, picture making becomes virtually an autonomous activity, quite definitely and deliberately inscribing ideal energies and relations. Picasso stated something similar: “When a form is realized it is there to live its own life”.
When the Sixth Salon d’Automne opened from 1 October to 8 November, the “acting jury” of the Salon, which included Matisse, had rejected Braque’s paintings from L’Estaque (Elderfield 1992, p. 18). In reaction to the rejection, Kahnweiler offered to show a selection of his recent output in his gallery (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 355). The exhibition, organized in a big rush, took place 9–28 November, and it featured twenty-seven works, including nineteen of the rejected landscapes, six still lifes of musical instruments and two nudes.45 In the catalogue preface, Apollinaire wrote: “There is room now for a more noble, more measured, more orderly, and more cultivated art. The future will tell how influential in this evolution were the magnificent example of a Cézanne, the solitary and determined toil of a Picasso, the unexpected meeting between a Matisse and a Derain, following upon the meeting between a Derain and a Vlaminck. Success has already rewarded the Picassos, the Matisses, the Derain, the de Vlamincks, the Frieszs, the Marquets, and the van Dongens. It will equally crown the works of a Marie Laurencin and a Braque”…(Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 356). The show was much talked about (Baldassari 2007, p. 337). It would be the gallery’s third and last (the first had featured Van Dongen, the second Camoin) (Richardson 2007, pp. 101–2). The dealer would later explain: “I must say that after a certain point the few people interested in these painters—for there were five or six—came immediately to see the new paintings, and painters and art lovers unable to buy came too; but we never again exhibited publicly, which shows you the absolute contempt in which we held not only the critics, but also the general public” (Kahnweiler 2003, p. 41).
Braque would gradually resolve the precarious tension of Cézanne’s dual homage to optically perceived nature and intellectually conceived art, just as the description of surfaces became remote from reality, so, too, did the color take leave of perceived nature, tending toward an ever more severe monochromatic composition that allowed for the study of a new spatial structure without the interference of a complex chromatic organization. For all the apparent solidity of this new world of building blocks, there was something strangely unstable and shifting in its appearance. The ostensible cubes were to evolve into a pictorial language that rapidly discarded this preliminary reference to solid geometry and turned rather to a further exploration of an ever more ambiguous and fluctuating world (Rosenblum 1976, p. 30).
Of the period that followed, Braque later remarked: “Before long, Picasso and I had daily exchanges; we discussed and tested each other’s ideas as they came to us, and we compared our respective works”. Picasso would corroborate: “Almost every evening, either I went to Braque’s studio or Braque came to mine. Each of us had to see what the other had done during the day. We criticized each other’s work. A canvas wasn’t finished unless both of us felt it was … At that time our work was a kind of laboratory research from which every pretension or individual vanity was excluded” (Gilot and Lake 1964, p. 77; Lebensztejn 2007, p. 42; Baldassari 2007, p. 337). The ambition of the two painters at this time was to create art as an anonymous collective in which the hand of one could not be distinguished from the hand of the other. Film might have been one of the models they followed since the medium was an ideal anonymous collective at the time. Films were often copied; if one succeeded, other producers and directors would pick up on it and do it again. Where there was one, there are inevitably more; there was no one of a kind, and the audience loved seeing the same thing over and over in different versions (Rose 2007, p. 82). Their collaboration led to trading and sharing, but also to competition—daring one another to go just a little further.
A new lucidity was evolving in 1909, a pairing away of excess and a growing interest in the interplay of planes and volumes (Schwartz 1971, p. 63). “The aim is not to reconstitute an anecdotal fact but to constitute a pictorial fact”, he stated (Unger 2018, p. 373). While Picasso would continue to implement a shamanistic approach to his art, the effect of his “climbing partner” on him was his abandonment of what remained of primitivist violence. He no longer needed to employ the paroxysmal expressiveness that had disconcerted his friend. In his still lifes of this period, his brushwork lightened to the point of becoming painterly penmanship. His experiments now concerned a technical quest for finesse rather than savageness (Daix 2007, p. 28).
The painting Deux femmes nues46 demonstrates a certain tension between illusionism and anti-illusionism. The angular and somewhat androgynous figures were clearly indebted to Cézanne’s depictions of bathers. As with other works of this year, they were set in a measurable space, but the actual location was left vague. The touch of green and rocky outcropping at the base of the picture hint at a landscape, while the angle behind the head of the right figure suggests a window or doorframe. The neat patches of parallel brushstrokes in closely modulated hues build a sense of tactile form that reminds us of Braque’s style. They also emphasize the flatness of the picture plane. Nature morte à la chocolatière47 represents a chocolate pot, popular in turn-of-the-century France. They are usually distinguished by their short spout, angled handle, and hole in the lid to insert the stirrer which was rolled between one’s palms to blend the ingredients. Picasso enjoyed perceptual uncertainties produced by the flat execution, such as the pot spout (partially shown as a dark triangle on the left side of the pot) that simultaneously defines the curved pedestal of the adjacent compote (The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2021). The simplification was made more striking in La reine Isabeau48 by the outmoded costume. The picture seems to have borrowed from medieval tapestries their two-dimensional portrayal of forms, and it was this perhaps that moved Picasso to take such an archaic subject. Perspective has been abolished. The character emerges from a flat background with an egg-shaped head, with her features barely indicated. In the rich coloring—a legacy from the past—a flamboyant green dominates, combined with a warm ochre and a delicate grey. As Antonina Vallentin suggests, perhaps Picasso and Braque were seeking to reach a stage where objects would cease to exist in a specific space and time, as they had done since the Renaissance, and live instead exclusively on the surface (Vallentin 1963, p. 102).
Femme à la mandoline49 is curious for its insistence on double perception combining two- and three-dimensional effects. A cadmium and magenta curtain provides a background for a chair and the figure’s dress painted in a complementary green. The deformation of the human body is accentuated by the oval head with the face sliced off giving it the appearance of an African mask. Only bare features, except for oblique eyelids and the faintest suggestion of a mouth are shown, but these cursory signs suffice to give it an expression of sorrowful intensity. The rest of the body, as well as the musical instrument, are treated in large sculptural masses, her right arm almost merging with the tall chair where she sits. However, the right background, consisting of book shelves introduces a contradictory realistic note. Even the spines of the books are carefully reproduced with their multicolored backs.
Although he was progressively moving away from the more savage stage of Proto-Cubism, Buste de femme50 still retained the sculptural character of his Negro period (Congo wood sculpture). In a similar fashion to other works from this time, the forms remain sculptural, although summarized to the maximum, endowing the personage with the presence of a fixed, totemic figure (Sotheby’s 2015, cat. no. 20, PF1516). There was a fine Fang mask with whitened face which used to hang in Braque’s studio and may have influenced this work. The hatched planes and wood-colored skin clearly resemble the African carving. Even as late as 1911, the poet André Salmon would describe Picasso’s studio as also filled with the “strange wooden grimaces … [of] a superb selection of African and Polynesian sculptures” (Alley 1981, p. 594). Yet, if the effect of these masks and figures with their broken lines was still perceptible in his canvases, a clear development was nevertheless taking place.
This is noticeable in Femme assise (Femme au châle).51 Picasso’s proximity to Braque and the influence of Cézanne’s palette were evident in the chromatics of the painting, with its planes of grays, browns, blacks, and greens, and the quickly executed brushwork shading and crosshatching which would dominate the majority of works painted through the spring.52 Daix described the transformation in his work during 1908–1909 as a progression “toward a kind of painting which does not draw its strength from any resemblance but rather from the quality of what is inscribed on the canvas as rhythms and contrasts has led him to this reinterpretation of painted forms beyond the sentimental subject from which they derive, and toward the inherent still life, which one can divine” (Daix 1993, p. 90). Braque advised Picasso to take more interest in the qualities of his paint. The rare use of the thinned and hastily painted background may well be the result of such advice. Pablo was accustomed to working at speed, forging the forms of his work together with an extreme economy of means. While the face was delineated in a few simple lines, one can already begin to see in the shaded coloring of the figure the almost monochromatic coloring of the fully fledged Analytic Cubism (Christie’s 1998, cat. no. 522, 6061).
Picasso would now pursue his analysis of volume and weight through the use of chromatic contrasts. The transition between adjacent planes was reinforced by the striated manner in which he applied the paint. This technique allowed him to modulate the planes—to project concave and convex forms—as a result of the sculptural effect of light traversing the surface of the figure (Christie’s 2001, cat. no. 27, 9636; Christie’s 2006, cat. no. 26, 1655). He used a similar manner of brushing on the paint to effect transitions from light to dark, and to modulate from one plane to the next in Tête d’homme.53 In this case, however, his method yields a hard-edged chiaroscuro that lends the figure convincing weight and extraordinary presence. He would strive to articulate sculptural forms within the painting’s two-dimensional plane. In other works like Nature morte au cuir à rasoir,54 through the use of Cézannian passage, he built forms out of small planes of color, avoiding definite contours that tend to “run” into one another to create the vibrational impression of light (reinforced by the use of small brushstrokes). The use of arbitrary grey and brown tones, instead of local (or so-called real) colors, would become a defining characteristic of Cubism (Seckel 1996, pp. 32–33). The expressive distortions that Picasso had earlier derived from El Greco and primitive art had now made way for a more objectively geometric and architectural method, which did no less violence to the traditional view of human form (Penrose 1981, p. 137).
At this time, he also focused on portraits of his mistress Fernande. She had been suffering from a kidney complaint in early 1909, which probably explains why Picasso did mostly close-ups of her head, and bust-length or seated portraits, in ordinary poses that were easy on her as she convalesced. In Tête de femme,55 he modeled her head with sharply delineated planes of light and shadow, employing a hard-edged chiaroscuro, which he reinforced by applying a network of hatch marks in thin, parallel brushstrokes. He worked out the details of mouth and nose, reducing their anatomical complexity to a series of symmetrical, crystalline facets. The artist himself seems to have justified the rigorously geometric language of these drawings as an expression of ideal, Platonic forms. As Leo Stein later recalled: “Picasso would stand before a Cézanne or a Renoir picture and say contemptuously ‘Is that a nose? No this is a nose.’ and then he would draw a pyramidal diagram” (Karmel 2003, p. 64). Buste de femme56 displayed the confidence and mastery which Picasso was already bringing to his new sculptural approach to form. There were no longer byways or divagations distracting him from the course on which he had set himself. This work was likely a study for the head and chest of Femme nue assise,57 ambivalently posed: apparently sitting on a nonexistent chair while straddling an impossible expanse of space (Sotheby’s 2019, cat. no. 42, N10147A). Golding commented that Picasso had become interested in a sculptural method to painting because of the physicality of his vision, because he wanted to touch, handle and mold his subjects. Now, with the abandonment of traditional single viewpoint perspective he was able to achieve his goal to give his canvases a dimension that in a sense already existed in free-standing sculpture. With the adoption of multi-viewpoint perspective he presented the viewer with that same sculptural fullness or completeness but on a two-dimensional support (Golding 1994, p. 20).
All of the works of this series of heads display the adopted technique for depicting the human form: a striated, linear form of brushstroke combined with areas of flat color. Creating tonal transitions, modulating adjacent planes from one another, he projected concave and convex forms, obtaining a sculptural effect of light traversing the surface of the geometric figure. The linear hatchings used to create the form of the head were born out of the study of Cézanne’s own, distinctive “constructive” brushstrokes. Picasso, however, intensified this mode of pictorial construction, using this technique in “a severe and logical way”, according to Golding (Golding 1958, p. 72). While his intense empirical observation of physiognomy may have acted as his starting point for these powerful heads, the Spaniard took this and developed it into a far more abstract, radical and powerful pictorial idiom, one that was detached almost entirely from reality, and expunged from any form of psychological bent (Christie’s 2018, cat. no. 5, 15483).
During the ensuing months, Picasso abandoned the starkly dramatic chiaroscuro seen as late as Bouquet de fleurs,58 turning instead to an increasing use of faceting that was no longer dependent on conventional shading, and he proceeded to orchestrate the surface of his paintings by means of a purely intuitive alternation of flat surfaces (Christie’s 2009b, cat. no. 33, 2164). The rugged scenery that the artist saw everywhere around him appeared to have encouraged him to introduce even more extensive planar structure in both his landscape and figure compositions (Penrose 1981, pp. 151–52). Weiss has noted that these paintings “sustain an impression of manifest weight and depth despite the growing ambiguity of projecting and receding planes an increasingly dispersed yet gravity-stricken density of form” (Weiss et al. 2003, p. 15). The specific variety of Cubism developed in Horta resulted from a fusion of Cézanne’s principle founded on the deconstructive interplay of reserves (blanks) and photographic hyperrealism (Baldassari 2007, p. 120). Early during his stay, he had taken several pictures of the Santa Barbara mountain, named after a Christian martyr who became entrenched in folk culture throughout Europe in the early Middle Ages. He would come to associate her namesake mountain with Fernande’s afflictions (Baldassari 2007, p. 135).
As Pierre Cabanne reports, Picasso was now concerned with an architectonic layering that revealed a bursting and crystallization of volumes. The village roofs, factory chimney, and the reservoir in Maisons sur la colline (Horta d’Ebre)59 and Le réservoir (Horta d’Ebre)60 broke down into parallelepipeds, pyramids, polyhedrons, etc. Indeed, the already-geometrical village required little more than simplification to coincide with the painter’s mind. Only the palm trees were imaginary; the mountain above was actually a homage to Cézanne’s Montagne Ste. Victoire (Cabanne 1979, p. 131). The colors were earth tones, grays and blacks, with a few touches of dull green, and soft gray-blues and buffs. Even the amorphous rocks were analyzed, broken down into prismatic planes, tilted and sliding over one another and sometimes meeting at a ridge (O’Brian 1994, pp. 171–72). The sky, too, is treated as a series of planes continuing the composition up to the top of the canvas, so that there is very little suggestion of depth even behind the buildings and mountains on the horizon.
The rules of construction, the treatment of colors and composition that had been implemented since the Renaissance was pulverized, leaving the field open to a non-representational, expositional language. During his stay at Horta, the question was posed as to how to ignite the methodological reactivation of El Greco’s art—an “icon painter” who had managed to create his own models (Baldassari 2007, p. 122). The highlight of the summer, indeed, had been a trip to Toledo, where Picasso had hoped to rediscover the Greek master—still an important influence. He had checked with a doctor to confirm that Fernande was not too ill to accompany him (Roe 2015, p. 264). From Horta, he wrote to Gertrude: “The doctor says that Fernande can make the journey to Madrid and Toledo, and Fernande also feels better I would be very happy to go—it’s been a long time that I’ve wanted to see El Greco again” (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 361; Baldassari 2007, p. 337). She wrote separately to her: “I’ve been in Spain for two months, and have not yet had an entire day to rest … I most certainly would be better off in Paris, where I could receive treatment. But to travel now would too greatly aggravate the illness … Life is sad. Pablo is glum and I can get no mental or physical comfort from him … Pablo would let me die without realizing the condition I’m in. Only when I suffer does he stop for a moment from working to take care of me” (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 361).
As Cubism became steadily more and more analytic, modeling diminished and with it the sculptural quality of the figures. Plane surfaces replaced volumes and these surfaces, more and more fragmented into luminous and often transparent planes, tended to fold back upon themselves so that another conception of volume returned; in something resembling Cézanne’s passage, his evocative color, particularly his blues, however, gave way to pale ocher, gray, and green. Yet, like the Master of Aix, at no point did Picasso ever abandon nature. For him, the whole strength and validity of his work resided in the vital link between the two realms, the initial reality of the object, the thing that “started the artist off, excited his ideas, and stirred his emotion”, and the ultimate reality of the picture. No matter how abstruse his paintings may appear, they have always as their origin a passionate observation of nature (Penrose 1981, pp. 159–62). His was after all a search for truth, as opposed to the semblance of truth offered by the “exterior appearance of objects”, the transitory, fugitive and relative character of which can lead only to “banal optical illusion” (Roskill 1985, pp. 11–32).
Progressively, however, the representation grew less legible, the starting-point less evident. This may be seen in Homme au chapeau (Portrait de Braque),61 a picture in which the planes of the features slide, not into a chaos but into a new order, with a taut rhythm of its own, yet one whose systematic dislocation, transposition, and near-disintegration was to grow virtually hermetic as the years went by (O’Brian 1994, pp. 177–78). In another canvas, Éventail, boîte de sel et melon,62 the dark green fan—opened and propped against the wall—began to lose its identity as an object of feminine coquetry and can be seen as so many facets in space, sharper to be sure than the softer folds of the green curtain hanging on the right. It may be the saltbox that reveals how much Picasso was pursuing Cézanne and even going beyond. He gave it greater complexity by propping the lid open, revealing a black cavern within, and adding two triangular wings to the sides. Each of the five planes we do see has its own autonomy and is distinguished from the others by color as well as by line. He would be breaking down the shapes on the canvas into smaller and energetic elements without destroying the pleasure in the surface. The most eccentric—and beautiful-part of this painting is the melon, barely fitted into a glass bowl with a zigzag edge (Boggs 1992, p. 80).
In his determination to follow in Cézanne’s steps, he left a large part of Carafe, compote et chandelier63 deliberately untouched. The compote was indisputably borrowed from the French painter, especially the shape of its ellipse. Picasso turned the opening and its contents toward the viewer. He changed its contours, darkening and lightening them, breaking them off, so that one’s eyes pursue the edge of the vessel in space as it hides behind a decanter. He left part of the bowl empty allowing one to experience its whiteness and the shadows cast by its contents. To the right, the painting becomes much darker, the table assuming the tonality of the liquid in the dark brandy glass. A brass displays a similarly dark tonality. This right side of the composition seems to project forward in a spatial exercise worthy of the master of Aix (Boggs 1992, p. 76). Equally reminiscent of Cézanne’s still lifes are the compelling simplicity and restraint of the simple piece of fruit in the watercolor Pomme.64 The common object was given a startling three-dimensionality through the faceted planes of soft color, its form seeming no longer organic but appearing as if carved from stone. Picasso intensified the master’s renowned “constructive” brushstrokes, using angular, linear hatching to invoke a sense of volume. Even the shadow it casts appears solid, a reflection of his intense investigation into the nature and construction of pictorial space (Christie’s 2019, cat. no. 33, 16930).
Another watercolor, Pomme, coffret et verre à vin,65 showed a series of objects, in this case the casket, apple, and wineglass, in a linear horizontal arrangement. The image as a whole was divided into two sections: to the right are the casket and apple (the solids), each surrounded by their own cast shadows which placed them firmly in space; whereas the left half was much lighter with the transparent wineglass melding with the undefined background. Harking back to the importance Cézanne attached to the use of the reserve in his work, Picasso edged his composition with irregular and undetermined lines which led off into emptiness. The palette of muted ochre and grey washes was heightened with touches of blue-green for the apple in allusion again to the master’s own distinctive use of color (Christie’s 2014, cat. no. 39, 3585).
Between 1909 and 1911, Picasso and Braque extended and transformed Cézanne’s language. The volumes were pared thinner; the tipping of planes into depth was slowly moderated until most of them were parallel with the surface, and the space was gradually compressed until it was shallow to a point far finer than his tightly-controlled “picture box”. In the body of works which would eventually be labeled Analytic Cubism, the landscape was virtually abandoned as a motif in favor of still lifes and figures. What would be most striking about them was the contrast between those elements that were realistically transcribed and those that were subjected to such as degree of analysis that recognition became at the very least quite difficult (Wadley 1970, pp. 52–54).
Femme assise dans un fauteuil en mangeant des fleurs,66 painted about the same time showed a more distorted figure. The body was broken up into a large number of very active, crowded facets on a background that was, by contrast, simpler and monumental (The Tate Modern 2021). The fragments into which the human body was cut or sliced have given way to a sense of violent movement, as though seen were seeing it through a kaleidoscope. Although there is a general debt here to Cézanne’s motif of the upper body of a woman leaning back in an armchair, its outline still recognizable against the neutral background, the fragmentation of volume canceled any identifying feature in the representation of the model (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou 2021). A new pictorial aesthetic had been born. Picasso would still sometimes return to his former manner and partially at least to the old “legibility”, but the rupture with the direct representation of reality was now virtually complete (Vallentin 1963, p. 105). When compared to Braque’s, Picasso’s innovations and changes of style gave the impression of being realized more suddenly and spontaneously. Then, after having taken the most daring steps forward, he would sometimes retreat a few paces, so that on comparing two paintings close in date the earlier example often seemed more developed. The same theses, the same subjects and poses were reinterpreted over and over again, often in some completely original way, but sometimes also in a manner of reminiscent of a previous phase; any novelty was eventually assimilated to what had preceded it; nothing was ever discarded. As Golding explains, this overlapping of styles is seen throughout the entire pre-war period, and since every phase contains the seeds for future developments, one is forced to take as focal points works in which discoveries or innovations are fully realized, rather than those in which they are first suggested (Golding 1968, pp. 73–74).
Picasso and Braque had not rejected perspective in order to assert its opposite—a concept of the painting as a façade where forms theoretically relate to each other only on the vertical plane. For them, the field of creation lay between these two poles, so that allusive space became an endlessly conjectural pliancy fending to define itself. Such space, whether hollowed, warped, flattened, or sometimes coexisting in all these states, contended with the preconception that depth is continuously perceived in nature. One has no choice but to jump in, each passage as arbitrarily valid a starting point as the next. No more orientation exists than the tendency of forms to concentrate around the center vertical axis and to drift away toward the perimeters. Aside from this scheme, however, to proceed further into the picture is to encounter a series of baffles and splices that merely inflect each other insubstantially with a tension from which there is no escape (Kozloff 1973, pp. 51–53).
The year 1910 would see two critical innovations in the definition of Cubism: the shift from a pyramidal arrangement, as seen in Femme assise dans un fauteuil en mangeant des fleurs, to a rectilinear grid, and a further shattering of the closed form into multiple planes opening into space. As Pepe Karmel has proposed, it seems likely that the first led to the second: that the abstract structure of the grid pulled apart the diagonal distortion found in 1908–1909 (Karmel 2007, p. 153). The point of agreement in all the accounts of Cubism is, first and foremost, a recognition of a desire to develop a new approach to the problem of form. But as Kant had shown, there can be no direct perception of form. Form is a product of the concept building faculty of the mind. Cézanne too had stated that a “logic” was as necessary as the “eye” in the proper analysis of nature. Form, indeed, seemed a revelation of an inner purposiveness in nature, a reflection of a reality of a higher order, a supersensible reality beyond all sensation that can only be grasped through artistic intuition (Gray 1953, pp. 43–50).
The orthogonal grid that was starting to dominate seems to have been invented by Braque this spring. As he later said, “In order to avoid a recession toward infinity (that is, conventional perspective), I began superimposing planes over one another, separated by slight distances. To make the viewer understand that things stand one in front of the other, rather than going back into space” (Karmel 2007, p. 154). It was probably the “diamond lattice” visible in his 1909 paintings that was the foundation for this linear scaffolding now holding the composition together and compensating for the discontinuity of the figure. According to Krauss, “the grid states the autonomy of the realm of art. Flattened, geometricized, ordered, it is antinatural, antimimetic, antireal. It is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature. In the flatness that results from its coordinates, the grid is the means of crowding out the dimensions of the real and replacing them with the lateral spread of a single surface. In the overall regularity of its organization, it is the result not of imitation but of aesthetic decree” (Karmel 1993, pp. 84–88).
There appeared, starting with the portraits done that winter, a kind of internal explosion of the picture, as if, once completed, a violent punch had destroyed the positioning of the masses without disrupting the overall organic unity. Each facet represented the most meaningful aspect of its particular mass, the painter urging the viewer to adopt as his own his creative visual mechanism. Where previously Braque and Picasso had been reconstituting forms on a geometrical basis, cubic forms were now giving way to all kinds of different shapes, overlapping, juxtaposing, or fitting into one another. They filled the whole picture, not leaving a single blank spot (Cabanne 1979, pp. 137–38). Painting adopted austere monochromatic tones of greys and ochres.
Works were virtually constructed in terms of a loose framework of vertical and horizontal lines suggested by the outlines of the subject. They were no longer self-contained fully circumscribed forms, but were opened up completely into the space around them to form a composition of interpenetrating, shifting planes, suggesting an extremely complicated transparent sculpture in low relief (Golding 1968, pp. 83–85). Musical analogies were perhaps more expressive, for here, as in music, the functions of intellect and the senses could not be separated. “The visible has been so harmoniously accommodated or digested that an awareness of the invisible is animated”, Schwartz wrote (Schwartz 1971, pp. 71–72). The device of fusing or merging the subject with its surroundings led the painter to insist on the surface unity of the picture, but it also allowed the spectator to reconstruct form beyond the boundaries stated. In Portrait de Wilhelm Uhde,67 the whole canvas seems at first sight to be covered with nothing but a shower of prisms, but curiously enough the portrait which emerged from them is an extraordinarily good likeness, not only physically, but also in its revelation of character. Through the elongated head, the close-set eyes and the line of the mouth, the starched points of the winged collar that rhyme with the two triangles of his lofty forehead, etc., the distinctive character of the man is clearly conveyed—even his pale skin by the use of dull greys and yellows (Vallentin 1963, p. 111). Uhde had by now his own gallery, but he still came across as an amateur rather than a professional dealer, above all to Picasso, who saw him as a writer addicted to modern art, rather than as someone in the trade. This difference—one that Pablo had been brought up to acknowledge—might well explain why he felt free to mock Uhde but not his more businesslike colleagues (Richardson 1996, pp. 172–74).
Impelled to an ever greater fragmentation of mass and to a more consistently regularized vocabulary of arcs and angles, he treated the human figure with a coherence that finally confounded the organic and the inorganic. As Golding has commented, in an unstable world of bodiless yet palpable shapes, the integrity of matter underwent an assault comparable to that made on the once indivisible atom. Around this time he ceased work on the portrait of a known model, the young Fanny Tellier—Jeune fille à la mandoline68—when she quit after numerous sittings. Later Picasso would say: “It may be just as well I left it as it is” (Richardson 1996, p. 151). The fact that at the time he saw the work as unfinished allows us an insight into his aesthetic intentions and his technical procedure. Planes were in a state of constant flux, shifting their relative locations according to a changing context. Even the texture of the canvas shared that ambiguity. The shaded surfaces evoked the illusion, on the one hand, of modeled, opaque solids, and on the other, of a curiously translucent substance. With its paradoxes of plane, light, and texture, the painting introduced a strangely elusive and fluctuating world, a world in which the fixed and the absolute were replaced by the indeterminate and the relative. If fixed spatial relations were rejected by the continual shifting and rearrangements, so, too, were fixed temporal relations, as the picture results from a composite of fragmentary moments without permanence or sequential continuity, as Rosenblum has argued (Rosenblum 1976, pp. 42–43).
Although Cubist compositions were becoming more abstract in appearance, the artist was still deeply conditioned by the material existence and the physical appearance of his subjects (Golding 1968, pp. 85–86). This may be seen in the ripples of wavy hair, the schema of a look, an evocative breast, the curving shapes of a musical instrument, and the natural beauty of the young girl. However, carried by the movement of the figure itself, he tilted forward the three-quarter profile, making it irreconcilable with the rest of the face while creating a new kind of relationship with the spatial content, a new and original fusion of a face with its surroundings. He completed this process by the geometrization of certain forms that one cannot identify as having a referential value, treating them as mere signs (Daix 1993, pp. 100–2).
The level of abstraction he was reaching at this point is exemplified in the drawing Femme nue,69 a rectangular plane with an angular breast is superimposed on the right side of the torso. The hip is marked by a shaded triangular plane, above the double curves of the buttocks. Similar planes protrude between the figure’s legs and recede into the space behind her, linking the figure and her surroundings. Arms and legs are represented by a mixture of lines and curves; the straight lines seem to express the extension of the bone structure, while the curves suggest the volume of muscle and flesh (Karmel 1993, pp. 43–48). Equally abstract is the figure in the oil Femme nue debout.70 The picture is comprised of varying shades of muted greys, browns, dark blue, and white. Single black lines seem to be scattered throughout, mostly vertical, some diagonal. Some rounded lines at the top of the canvas combine to form a face, titled up. To its left and right, lines bend to indicate elbows. The torso includes some of the brightest whites and palest tans. On the figure’s left, just below the torso, we see the two largest curves of the painting. A bright white-grey meets the edge of the curve which could indicate the buttocks. Directly below, a fairly straight line representing the figure’s left leg is met at a wide angle by two curves and two diagonal lines depicting the other leg. The combination provides a suggestion of movement (Albright-Knox Art Gallery 2021), Buffalo, NY 2021).
Form continued to break down under the painter’s relentless assault, becoming ever more fragmented, ever more transparent, until objects and the space that contained them formed a continuum within the grid. Like radiologists studying bones and muscles under a shower of x-rays, they demonstrated that the harder one looks, the more rigorously one probes, the more things slip through one’s grasp (Unger 2018, pp. 388–89). If in his 1908 and 1909 paintings, Picasso had used faceting primarily to describe the contours of the body seen as a unified sculptural mass, each facet of his spring 1910 figures seem to be an independent form, freely overlapping or intersecting with its neighbors. The overall disposition of facets reflects the natural form of the body, but any given facet is at liberty to depart from the “real” contour of the limb it describes. The meaning of a given form—an angle or a curve—depends as much on its placement with respect to the depicted figure as on its particular character (Karmel 1993, pp. 42–43). It was now obviously much easier to fuse figure and surroundings, thus emphasizing both the “materiality” of space and the unity of the picture surface, while the greater complexity and concentration of the central areas generally served to isolate and emphasize the subject (Golding 1968, pp. 90–91).
Canvases executed throughout the summer would further develop the style announced by Jeune fille à la mandoline (Fanny Tellier). The most abstract ones like Le guitariste71 confirmed his move toward abstraction (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 366; Richardson 1996, p. 157; Roe 2015, p. 295). The brownish, reddish composition, built with diagrammatic sparseness, allowed only the slightest relation to reality: the size of a man, the bare suggestion of a guitar, both impossible to recognize if not for the title (Cabanne 1979, p. 140). A tenuous scaffolding of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines replaces both anatomy and contours and articulates big patches of variegated tone which represent not just the “real” musician, but a certain atmosphere (Cowling 2002, pp. 201–17). Direct reference to outward appearance has entirely vanished. The remaining structure owes its reality to the invention of a new architecture that is beautifully human in its proportions and convincing entry as a three-dimensional “ideographic sign” (Penrose 1981, p. 167).
This is the period of what Bois called Semiological Cubism (Bois 1992, pp. 183–85). It was during his stay in Cadaqués, a town in southern France, just a few miles from the Spanish border, that he “broke up the homogeneity of form”, to use the terms employed by Kahnweiler. He carried abstraction so far that all that remained of his model were a few elements which he regarded as significant, its essential constitution (Daix 1965, pp. 87–88). The new technique allowed planes to flow into the ground and hence into each other, thereby denying any sense of unified, coherent mass. The basic module was the (open) angle, which generated oppositions of values and hues, continuity and discontinuity. Probably to forestall the threat of the complete dissolution of the object, the artist concentrated the most articulated forms to the center of the composition as in Femme à la mandoline,72 allowing the edges (covered with horizontal strokes serving as textural device) to play the role of background against which the figure stood out (Lebensztejn 2007, p. 44; also Golding 1968, p. 92).
Since the Renaissance, the depiction of objects in space in terms of “closed” forms had conventionally implied the depiction of their depth and solidity by means of chiaroscuro and perspective. Picasso, who wished to avoid both of these devices, now broke through the closed “skin” of objects, depicting them in terms of overlapping fragments. Mass itself seemed to dissolve in the flickering play of semitransparent planes that asserted a position in space. What distinguished this approach from previous ones was the adoption of discontinuity as a constructive process. By isolating each aspect of the object and showing it separately, it was possible to present its essential qualities, undistorted by the accidents of perspective, lighting, and so forth (Karmel 1993, pp. 57–62). This also resulted in a dismantling of the traditional boundaries between objects and their surrounding space, which, in turn, allowed him to establish a new coherence of depth and surface (Daix and Rosselet 1979, p. 81; Poggi 1992, pp. 43–52).
Through autumn, he worked on the canvases La table de toilette73 and Nature morte avec verre et citron.74 The former is the more decipherable, hence probably executed first. At the top was an adjustable mirror suspended between two columns; in the foreground an array of toiletries: a glass with a toothbrush in it alongside Fernande’s bottles and jars. These hazy, delicate effects gave way to a firmly drawn, fairly regular orthogonal grid harboring mysteriously glinting planes, which combine to produce an impression of activity and energy. Recession was not perspectivally defined but neatly suggested by the contrast of a small key in the drawer at the back with the larger key in the drawer in front. The device of focusing our attention on a familiar object that we instinctively want to grasp originated with Braque. By this stage the differences between Pablo’s and Georges’s paintings had become very subtle indeed, since the more emphasis the former placed on space, light and shade, and atmosphere (at the expense of the identity and materiality of the depicted objects), the more his paintings resembled his partner’s (Cowling 2002, pp. 201–17). By inviting us to touch it, the key lures us into what the Frenchman called “tactile space”. The second major Cadaqués still life is less legible. Rather than dividing the background into rectangular planes, Picasso allowed it to remain an indefinite space, punctuated by groups of predominantly vertical lines. At the upper corners and the bottom edge of the canvas, these verticals were capped with inverted curves, yielding a distinctive stem-plus-arc motif (Karmel 1993, pp. 90–92). Against what Richardson calls an organ-pipe-like grid, he set out a conglomeration of objects, which were tantalizingly close to being identifiable—maybe a glass, a fruit dish, a lamp with a shade, possibly a mandolin. One more legible detail—a realistic but ghostly knob on the extreme right-hand surface of the table—conjured up once again a drawer, this time not otherwise delineated. The other legible detail, the slice of lemon with radiating spokes at the very center of the composition, held everything together (Richardson 1996, p. 160).
By this season, he completed the oil Portrait d’Ambroise Vollard.75 The space within the picture had lost its obtrusively convex areas, becoming almost completely flat. No large chunks were placed side by side, and the transitions between the small areas had become smoother (Walther 1993, pp. 43–44). Despite the purchases he had made upon Picasso’s return from Cadaqués, Vollard had remained skeptical of Cubism. He had taken him up and dropped him and once again taken him up, but had never rewarded him with a contract. Pablo was all the more eager to stay on good terms with him because he had not only become the most important post-impressionist dealer in Paris, he had also sat for every illustrious artist (Richardson 1996, p. 174). Done entirely in shades of ochres and greys, the central area of the composition as a whole, it clearly represented the outline, structure and features of the head (Vallentin 1963, pp. 111–12). The painting fulfills the main requirements of a portrait with its massive cheeks, Mongolian nose and straight, broad mouth, but the lines are continued at random, no longer restricted to defining a specific form. They have a life of their own. So do the colors (Warncke and Walther 1991, pp. 178–80). The subject ceased to be outside; the accent was now placed on the experience of the medium (Daix 1965, pp. 82–83). Indeed, Bernice Rose argues that, rather than a portrait, we are dealing with a cinematic process of becoming and unbecoming. We may read him as “self-engendered, created by his own conceptual and perceptual faculties, which—in a sort of redoubling of seeing—engages us in his game of self-recreation” (Rose 2007, pp. 66–70). Vollard was never especially fond of his portrait; and in 1913 he would sell it to Ivan Morozov for 3000 francs (Roe 2015, p. 302).
Around this time, Kahnweiler also posed for a portrait, which required about twenty sittings that would stretch late into the year (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 369). The fact that the German had once again let him down by buying few if any examples of his recent work—possibly because he was out to manipulate him into signing a contract—might explain the lack of intensity in the characterization. This time there were no previous depictions by Cézanne or Renoir, as had been the case with Vollard, to challenge him; there was only Van Dongen’s fauve portrait of the dealer in his dining room, which made this least theatrical of men look as if he had been made up for the stage. Portrait de Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler76 was low-keyed, cerebral, cool. There was no mockery, either, as there had been in the portrait of his compatriot Wilhelm Uhde (Richardson 1996, pp. 175–76).
The canvas might have helped Picasso toward a solution of the problem of avoiding abstraction, since in dealing with this particular individual he opted for a less hermetic means of expression. He made the subject recognizable by the introduction of several “keys” or “signs” within the looser, more generalized, structure of the figure. Distinctive features such as his eyes and hands, for example, were rendered with a greater degree of naturalism, and these, together with the clues provided by other details—such as a button on the coat, a lock of hair, or the Mukuyi mask from Gabon—served to identify the sitter. While subsequent paintings were understandably not as easily legible as this portrait, almost all of them did contain some similar clues that served to pinpoint the subject, and render it immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with Cubist iconography (Golding 1968, pp. 89–90).
When the twenty-seventh Salon des Indépendants opened on 21 April 1911, it was almost impossible to get into the so-called “Cubist” room (Salle 41) due to the huge crowds.77 Neither Braque nor Picasso were represented, as usual. This was part of their standard policy (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 373; Fraquelli et al. 2016, p. 161). The exhibition brought Cubism to the attention of the general public for the first time, and—perhaps not surprisingly for such an iconoclastic form of art—it became a succès de scandale (O’Brian 1994, p. 181). In any case, the Cubism that caught the public eye was by no means the genuinely innovative art of its originators. The work of Gleizes, Metzinger, Le Fauconnier, Delaunay and de La Fresnaye was essentially “geometrically abstract”, taking its cue from “the cube” (Warncke and Walther 1991, p. 203). Richardson tells us that all his life Gleizes would suffer from a chip-on-the-shoulder delusion that he and Metzinger, as opposed to Picasso and Braque, had invented Cubism (Richardson 1996, p. 2080). Regardless, the day following the opening, a violent storm of criticism and derision was let loose. The painters themselves, despite the highly organized aspect of their demonstration, appeared to have been surprised at the shock caused by their works and at the sudden notoriety which they had gained overnight. Even without the works of Picasso and Braque the public had seen in their manifestation a radical departure in art (Golding 1968, pp. 24–25).
In his “Studio Column” published in Paris-Journal the previous day, Salmon had tried to set the record straight: “Let us just remind these “innovating” young masters that Cubism was invented five years ago by a Spanish painter after long aesthetic digressions, along with philosophers, poets, and mathematicians. It seemed at first inoffensive mental juggling. But Picasso laid the first stone, the first cube of the temple, which was not the most laudable thing he has done”. A few months later, he would elaborate that the so-called Cubists had little to do with the Spaniard: “While it is true that Cubism was born of Picasso’s speculations, he himself was never a Cubist. The first evidences of Cubism, still very hesitant … came from Georges Braque … Much more intellectual, Jean Metzinger brought together the diffuse elements of Cubism, outlined a discipline, or at least a theory; so that while Cubism really does come from Picasso, Metzinger is justified in calling himself its leader” (Cabanne 1979, p. 143). Apollinaire went further and that same day in L’Intransigeant applied the term “Cubism, properly speaking” to Metzinger alone, as represented at the Salon, distancing it from Picasso (Golding 1968, p. 25; Apollinaire 1972, p. 153; Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 366; Lebensztejn 2007, p. 32).
Another Salon des Artistes Indépendants opened from 10 June to 3 July, organized by the Société des Artistes Indépendants of Brussels. The catalogue listed many of the artists that had exhibited together at the earlier Salon: Archipenko, Delaunay, Segonzac, Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, Léger, Marchand, Moreau and Jean Plumet. Metzinger for some reason abstained (Golding 1968, p. 25). The works shown seemed to have shared only a concentration on clearly defined simple forms and a corresponding limitation of color, and very few of them had anything at all in common with the work of Picasso or Braque. Certain critics like Olivier Hourcade and Roger Allard, who did not realize the importance of what the true originators of Cubism were doing, continued to take a broad view of the style as simply a return to a more sober, classical approach to art, and thus included within it a large number of artists who were not strictly speaking Cubist but had been slightly influenced by the ideas of the two creators (Golding 1968, p. 26). Allard wrote in Les Marches du Sud-Ouest: “On these … artists [the Cubists] … the influence of Cézanne is manifest … I could without injustice omit to mention Picasso and Braque in discussing influences; and I would have done so, had not Metzinger, with his delicately literary and highly impressionable nature, confessed not long ago to having looked at the pictures of these artists (who indeed are estimable) with eyes other than those of objective criticism. Picasso’s violent personality is resolutely outside the French tradition, and the painters with whom I am concerned instinctively felt this” (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 374).
In L’homme à la mandoline,78 every “real” form was translated into an abstract equivalent and then overlaid with additional abstract forms, so that the figurative elements of the painting could not be distinguished from the “decorative exigencies”. Yet, other works like Le mandoliniste79 employed a mixture of geometric and naturalistic styles. Beyond their function as clues, the “real details” served to offer a stylistic contrast with the figure, suggesting the variety of ways in which the same reality might be represented. Thus, one could say Picasso created a deliberately heterogeneous pictorial language. The finished painting was the result not of an automatic transcription of reality, but of a series of artistic choices. In Moine à la mandoline,80 the triangular outlines seem to have been suggested by the format of the seated figures, narrow at the top and broadening toward its base. While the grid skeletons of 1910 and early 1911 had been armatures in the strict sense of the word; that is, they defined the internal structure of the figure, and the diagonal or curved elements of the head, arms, and breasts depended on them, the triangular outlines now did not define the figure’s internal structure. Rather, these outlines mediate between the figure and the composition of the picture as a whole. In effect, the outline divides the canvas between the space of the figure and the space of its surroundings (Karmel 1993, pp. 104–6).
Interpretations of this phase of Cubism, stressing fluctuation and oscillation, or ambiguity and playfulness, or the basic tensions set up between surface and depth, or passage as a device of linkage between disparate planes, are truer to the character of the paintings themselves. But the idea of Cubism in this phase as a “language” that needs to be learned does not take account of the separation of the intellectual and cognitive processes that Picasso’s and Braque’s work enforces. Roskill maintains that the often heard charge that Cubism is “intellectual” in character during this phase—besides missing out on the many visually exciting and retinally stimulating features that the work evinces—seems to derive from this aspect of the response that is generated, in frustrated attempts at a total “piecing together” of what is shown, when this is in fact not feasible (Roskill 1985, pp. 51–52).
In mid-July 1912, Braque introduced what would turn out to be a very important new element into one of his works. Across a painting entitled Le Portugais, he stenciled the letters BAL, and under them a set of numerals. He had started inserting graphic signs into his still lifes probably as early as 1910 (Le Pyrogène et ‘Le Quotidien’), but they had blended into the composition and had had no function other than that of identifying as a newspaper the object over which they were painted.81 Now, however, the artist realized that such lettering were “forms which could not be distorted because, being themselves flat, they were not in space, and thus by contrast their presence in the picture made it possible to distinguish between objects situated in space and those which were not” (Quoted in Cooper 1970, pp. 55–56). He and Picasso must have discussed the value of incorporating letters as a formal anti-pictorial counterpoint before the latter’s departure for Céret. The first known work by Pablo including this new element is La bouteille de rhum,82 executed there. It has been suggested that the letters at the left, namely LE TR, refer to Le Torero, the magazine for bullfighting fans published in the town, but they might simply be a pun on lettre. One is hard-pressed to see the other objects in the still life such as the bottle of rum mentioned in the title, its neck possibly represented in the upper center of the picture. Some spidery black lines to the left of it might denote a music sheet, and the round shape lower down, the base of a glass. In the center, at the far right, we see what looks like the pointed spout of a porrón. All of the objects in the still life rest on a round tabletop described by the curved outline on the right (The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2021).
Although they were together for no more than three weeks, the two artists challenged each other to such good effect that—using the Frenchman’s mountaineering image—they finally made it to the summit. Over the next three years, sometimes singly, sometimes together, they would conquer other peaks, but nothing would excel the feat they brought off at Céret, when the two of them pooled their prodigious resources their very different skills and powers of invention and imagination—not to speak of Spanish duende and French poésie—to achieve parity. As Golding says, it was “a moment of poise and equilibrium”. The planting of the flag on the mountaintop owed as much to the visceral drive of the one as it did to the spiritual resolve of the other (Richardson 1996, p. 193). Throughout the year, the work of Picasso and Braque would evolve along two lines which, though they met in practice, must be clearly distinguished. Schwartz refers to one as the metaphorical line, which aimed at the penetration of an existing reality for the purpose of creating an alternative, conceptual one; the other was that of constant striving toward a pure aesthetic. The Spaniard was generally associated with the former, and the Frenchman with the latter (Schwartz 1971, pp. 91–92).
In a second phase of Cubism that now commenced, Picasso and Braque would build back into their work an equivalent to every one of the traditional cues for reading a painting that they had broken with or eliminated during the preceding phase. The previous discontinuities and ellipses, the suppression of color, the flattening, the bleeding out of objects and the detachment of floating planes would be replaced by the appearance of more integrally recognizable forms, and by the reconstitution of mass and tactile surface (Roskill 1985, pp. 55–56). By 1911, Picasso and Braque had made it their practice to include amongst the constituent elements individual “attributes” of an object, such as its contour, coloring and texturing, as well as the most familiar hallmarks of its identity. The presentation in a compressed or distilled form in itself became the basis for evoking the character of that object (Roskill 1985, pp. 66–68). The overlay of these detached “aspects” or “attributes” might have been influenced by cinema, which had become quite a popular form of entertainment. In the last few years, Parisian cinema-only theaters had multiplied by a factor of eight (Wild 2007, p. 158). Since it was located close to his No. 11, boulevard de Clichy studio, Pablo could have frequented La Brasserie-Cinéma Rochechouart. La Grande Brasserie de la Gaité was equally well known for its shows beginning around the same time. The latter was located at 3, rue de Larochelle across from the 242, boulevard Raspail studio where he would move in September. There were cinemas also conveniently close to Georges’s residence. An establishment simply called Cinéma-Brasserie was located at 10, rue Steinkerque, less than a block away from his address on rue d’Orsel. Only steps around the corner from La Grande Brasserie de la Gaité, the two artists would have found a more standard cinema-only venue at 53, rue de Vanves (now rue Raymond Losserand), the Vanves Cinéma Pathé (Wild 2007, p. 160).
Many theoreticians thought of the first phase of Cubism had developed from an empirical approach. However, as Gray explains, while it was analytical to a degree, it was analysis in which the creative activity of the artist also played a great part, while that of nature became subservient. And the reverse applies to its second phase. Even if Cubist painting was then regarded as a revelation of a higher, dimly perceived reality, it still preserved its essentially representational character. In other words, in both phases elements performed multiple functions, reading at times as displaced representational elements, and at others, when the focus of attention changed, as parts of a geometrical pattern. The very nature of the Cubist’s concepts at this time demanded that there be such unresolved conflicts (Gray 1953, pp. 55–90, 91–99).
Braque and Picasso had realized that if the forms on a painting can be obtained through a montage, as in the stenciled letters La bouteille de rhum, then color could likewise be superimposed. Instead of imitating things, one could even introduce real objects, pieces of paper, for instance, to represent the color (Daix 1965, pp. 91–94). By applying to a canvas such elements generally considered to be foreign to the technique of painting or drawing, the two artists also made the spectator conscious of the material support, an entity capable of receiving and adapting to other objects. This important innovation would eventually lead to collage. They would start seeing their paintings as constructions having their own independent existence, as small, self-contained domains, not reflecting the outside world but recreating it in a completely new form (Golding 1968, pp. 92–94). They acknowledged that art had its own laws, which were as elusive to the artist as the laws of nature were to the physicist (Daix 1965, pp. 85–86).
It was in mid-May that Picasso executed his first Cubist collage, Nature morte à la chaise cannée,83 by sticking onto a painted surface a piece of oilcloth. The idea was evidently to enlarge the possibilities of art by including in the new plastic vision materials that had been foreign to painting, but to do it in such a way that they would acquire a pictorial value (Vallentin 1963, p. 126). Within the still life, we can identify the objects from left to right: a folded newspaper with the JOU of Le Journal (playfully also suggesting jouer), a white clay pipe that cuts across it diagonally, a transparent goblet in the approximate center, a knife with a broad blade cutting across a cut lemon, and below that a white form with one scalloped edge which might be a shell. Although none of these items was rendered in a conventional representational form, their shapes were clear and their nature largely identifiable. The colors in the composition were the usual restrained grays, whites, browns, and blacks that had dominated since 1910. The whole canvas was framed with a continuous hemp rope, which was quite a shock in its coarseness against the smooth sophistication of the painting. Moreover, the piece of oilcloth he had pasted onto the canvas had been printed to imitate a common chair caning, in a form of trompe l’oeil.84
Yet, in spite of the conflict introduced between the collage elements and the painted surface, the artist appeared to make every effort to integrate the imported piece of oilcloth into the composition, as Cowing has argued. He chose a design printed in the range of colors and tones he often used himself, thus masking the juncture between most of the cut edges of the oilcloth and the canvas support, also brushing over it blurred diagonal trails of paint which read as shadows cast onto it by the still life objects above. However, since the oilcloth covered about a third of the picture, its presence was quite assertive. Moreover, its alien nature was emphasized by the style of its design, for whereas the other objects had been painted in the abstracted style of late Analytic Cubism, the oilcloth was printed with a pattern convincingly descriptive. The witty but disorienting combination of real rope, illusory chair caning and abstract Cubist drawing suggests that Picasso instantly recognized collage as an inherently disruptive procedure well suited to the exposure and exploitation of differences in style. The interventionist, manipulative—even violent—nature of the collage technique appealed directly to the explosive side of his character, and with its introduction, juxtaposition and contrast would move to center stage in his work (Cowling 2002, pp. 228–37).
It is this collage that prepared the way for the “pasted-paper revolution”, that is, the interpretation of painting and sculpture as “script”. Its heterogeneity is a radicalization of the system of inscription already present in the immediately preceding group of oval still lifes. He proposes that for such a radical change to occur there had to be a shift from the empirical and vertical space of vision, controlled by our own erect position on the ground, into the semiological and possibly horizontal space of reading (Bois 1992, pp. 185–87). The relation of the table, as a sign of modernist aspiration for the literal object, to the classical tableau, as a sign of traditional illusion, had until now remained fundamental. His collage undermined not only such conventional fictions, but also those of the new, avant-garde tableau-object. By inscribing both paradigms in a paradoxical play of identity and difference, Picasso demonstrated that the material literalness of the object itself was constituted within a system of oppositions, just as the by-then discredited transparency of the picture plane had been reestablished as a fiction in opposition to the world outside the frame. In this double register of signs, some referred to concrete objects, others to concepts, but each sign was also a pictorial element, conveying information about form (Daix and Rosselet 1979, p. 94).
The fragmentation and dispersal of forms in Picasso’s Cubism issued from this view of artistic language as essentially constructed and arbitrary, as Poggi has argued. Collage called for a continuously shifting interpretive strategy which led to an accretion of meanings but rarely to a resolution of the contradictions or paradoxes presented by the work. By multiplying the alternatives, the artist denied a direct, transparent relation between his pictorial signifiers and their referents in the external world. He thereby pointed to the arbitrariness of those signifiers in the absence of a single governing interpretive context or paradigm (Poggi 1992, pp. 61–73). Collage instituted a systematic play of the real and the represented where the notion of truth was always undermined. The juxtaposition of opposing formal elements—figure and ground, transparent and opaque forms, machine-printed and hand-drawn elements—which characterized these works precluded any revelation of absolute truth. The question of pictorial unity itself was displaced to the experience of the viewer, where it was suspended and dispersed in the time of interpretive analysis. The oppositions in the composition point to the relational, diacritical nature of pictorial signifiers within a given representational system, thereby negating a substantive or essential link to the signified or to a referent in the world beyond (Poggi 1992, pp. 86–93). That is, the picture ceased to be a revelation of another reality, and became an aesthetic object in itself. The stress passed gradually from the communication of reality to the creation of new real objects. This marked the turning away from the idea of representation, in which things are imitated, to the creation of assemblages that gained an existence of their own. The role of the artist was to make the viewer aware of the quality of the medium itself as something real, as opposed to the usual way of regarding it as the reflection of an external entity. He was no longer concerned with the creation of ideas, but with the creation of artistic objects (Gray 1953, pp. 114–35).
On 1 September, he briefly left for Paris accompanied by Eva, his companion since early in the year, to organize their move to a new place.85 They would spend the next two weeks packing up things at No. 11, boulevard de Clichy and assembling the work stored in the Bateau-Lavoir studio. The fact that he had to vacate his studio probably caused him to reevaluate past approaches. He might have also had a confrontation with Fernande, whom he had not seen since their breakup and who probably had a few personal possessions there that she would want to collect. The search for a new studio proved to be more difficult than expected.
In Pablo’s absence, Braque traveled by himself to Avignon.86 On his return to Sorgues, and through 13 September, he made the first papier collé with simulated-woodgrain wallpaper.87 He later recounted that while he was walking around during his visit, his eye was caught by a roll of paper printed as faux bois (imitation oak-grain) displayed in the window of a wallpaper shop, and he immediately realized that it could be useful for his compositions. He was continually trying to adapt craft techniques to Cubism, to put it on a new footing (Warncke and Walther 1991, pp. 207–8; also Vallentin 1963, p. 125). Back in his studio, he applied his new find to Compotier et verre and one or two other works before his friend returned (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 403). When he got back, not having yet found a new place to move to in Paris, he had the opportunity to see Georges’s new discovery.88 It was a great revelation. He realized that these anonymous, ready-made pieces of reality not only did away with all personal virtuosity, but—much more important—that in their new context they could set up a wonderful series of reverberations in the viewer’s mind, the various perceptions echoing to and fro, heightening one another and disturbing all preconceived notions (O’Brian 1994, p. 195). “In the limitless space of poetic imagination, papier collé became a kind of poetry of broken parts”, as Rose has written (Rose 2007, pp. 112–13). In mid-September, Braque wrote to André Verdier: “After making the first papier collé, I felt a great shock, and Picasso felt an even greater shock when I showed it to him” (López de Benito 2009, p. 59).
Pablo started using this new material, and by October 9, he confessed to him: “I’ve been using your latest papery and pusiereux procedures. I’m in the process of imagining a guitar and I’m using a bit of earth on our dreadful canvas. I’m very pleased that you’re happy in your Bel-Air villa. As you can see, I’ve begun working a little”. The references to powder and earth indicate that he had begun works in which he mixed sand in his paint, such as Guitare sur une table II89 and Violon, partition et journal.90 The term pusiereux refers either to the cardboard Guitare91 or to Picasso’s first papier collé—if indeed Guitare et feuille de musique92 had been started that early. In the same letter, he mentioned “… on the walls of our dining room I have hung all the paintings from my collection, and I await your return in order to have the frame for your still life which still is unframed”. This picture in all likelihood is Nature morte à la bouteille, which was one of Braque’s most fully developed works of 1911. It is possible, though not certain, that he acquired the still life in an exchange with his friend (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 407; Lebensztejn 2007, pp. 44, 51; Baldassari 2007, p. 347; López de Benito 2009, p. 63; Mahler 2015, p. 72).
From autumn to winter, Picasso inaugurated the period of the first generation of newspaper papiers collés (Daix and Rosselet 1979, pp. 111–16; López de Benito 2009, pp. 65, 72) with works like Tête d’homme,93 Bouteille et verre sur une table.94 This series contained pieces of colored papers and newspapers pasted over a linear scaffolding drawn in pen or pencil (Fluegel 1980, p. 152). On November 17, a huge demonstration (between 40,000 and 100,000 people) against the Balkan War took place at Pré-Saint-Gervais, a suburb of Paris (a place called Butte du Chapeau Rouge). There were speeches by German, Russian and French socialists, anarchists and pacifists, and cries of approval: “a bas la guerre” and “Vive la révolution sociale” (Richardson 1996, p. 242). Picasso would include newspaper clippings that referred to this demonstration in Verre et bouteille de Suze.95 The pieces of newspaper almost completely cover the canvas; the column of print are legible although some appear upside down. As Rose explains, the work makes the fragmented, multi-dimensional visual structure of the text on the page its operative principle as a syntagmatic principle of oppositions and re-routings and stop-actions that split along a number of axes. The object is multidimensional—a layered and complex topographical construction, simultaneously a syntactic, visual, and performative object demanding attentive scanning—to make connections over large leaps in time and space and in several dimensions (Rose 2007, pp. 117–21).
The horizontal placement of the strip of Le Journal in Guitare, partition, verre96 suggests that it signifies both itself as newspaper and the tabletop on which the still life rests. Toward the lower right, on a separate white sheet, is an analytical sketch of a glass. A black semicircle of paper was stuck over parts of both the newspaper and the drawing, forming the bottom section of the guitar. The left side of the instrument is composed of a sheet of painted imitation wood-grained paper. Its main body is defined by an empty space. The fingerboard is a piece of blue paper cut into a parallelogram, at the bottom of which a white paper circle has been stuck to represent the sound hole. Completing the materials is a fragment of printed sheet music, stuck over the right side of the blue sheet. The wallpaper that fills most of the composition renders the picture plane as a flat surface, over which the other elements project forward. The fragment of Le Journal with the headline “La Bataille s’est engagé” could make reference to Cubism itself. At the time this work was made, its innovations were under attack by both municipal and state representatives, as already mentioned (Miller 2002, pp. 99–102). Others see in the headline an allusion to the ongoing Balkan War. In the second collage in which Picasso used newsprint, Violon,97 the article he chose described the occupation of Saint-Jean-de-Medusa by the Montenegran army and discusses the desire of the Turks to continue fighting. Verre et bouteille de Suze and others contained reports of the Serbian advance toward Monastir in Macedonia, including accounts of the wounded, descriptions of battle movements, etc. Works like these considerably enriched the paradoxes involved in the dialectic between art and reality (Leighten 1989, pp. 121–42).
Another collage, Violon,98 contained newspaper clippings dating from around 20 November (Cabanne 1979, p. 163). As Krauss has argued, the artist established a figure/ground reversal by cutting a single piece of newspaper so as to represent, through the placement of the resulting halves, both the right and left profiles of a violin. He glued one of the pieces of newspaper near the center of the collage so that it defined the left edge of the violin. He then used the other piece of paper, flipped over, to mark the violin’s right edge. The two sides, mirror images of each other, thus produce the opposing profiles of the instrument, but only because one is treated as a positive and the other as a negative shape (Krauss 1992, pp. 261–62). The finely printed lines resembled the imprinted veins of faux bois like a simple metaphor for the structure of the musical instrument drawn in negative. Acting as both background and form, however, the newsprint undermined the values of opacity and transparency, of depth and relief. These formal and spatial paradoxes move this collage into the domain of machines à voir. The disparity in the size and thickness of the two f-shaped sound holes must be read as sign of foreshortening due to rotation into depth, something that also applies to the previous collage. Yet this sign for depth is inscribed in the very place where it is most noticeably absent, on the rigidly frontal plane of the collage surface. There is no positive sign without the eclipse or negation of its material referent. There is also no positive sign that is not itself negated by another sign (Poggi 1992, pp. 52–56).
The technique of pasting so strongly emphasized the two-dimensional reality of the picture surface that even the few vestiges of traditional illusionism clinging to earlier Cubist painting—the vibrant modeling in light and dark, the fragmentary diagonals that create a deceptive space—could not survive for long. The luminous shimmer and the oblique disposition of planes in earlier Cubism were replaced by a new syntax in which largely unshaded planes were placed parallel to the picture surface. Besides contributing such stylistic clarifications, collage stimulated an even greater consciousness of the independent reality of pictorial means (Rosenblum 1976, pp. 69–70). Kozloff saw in collage a new method of possessing many images without resorting to the representational apparatus at all or by creating representations as things in themselves (and, therefore, highlighting their different substances). Yet these “short cuts” consisted not merely in contracting the span of physical work involved, but of shifting responsibility for the life of the picture more directly on to the combining rather than the executional, skills of the artist (Kozloff 1973, pp. 63–65).
His realization of the arbitrariness of forms was the visual equivalent of the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure’s discoveries in verbal language. The artist showed the way toward a “painting of difference”, founded on the deliberate creation of a gap between the sign and the thing signified. As Rubin also suggested, once he and Braque had arrived at a coherent visual language, they could create new images simply by re-arranging signs they had previously invented. The sign was meaningful because it represented “a choice from a set of possibilities, with meaning determined also by the very terms not chosen. Both Picasso and Braque maintained that painting was a mode of representation; but it must still avoid the imitation of the superficial aspects of things as perceived by the senses. The new art was an art of creation, not replication. The aim of painting is not to reconstruct an anecdotic fact, but to constitute a pictorial fact. That which was to be represented did not, in the last analysis, belong to the world of real objects, governed by natural laws, but to the field of art in which the laws it obeyed were aesthetic (Gray 1953, pp. 136–55).
It has been argued that it was not until Picasso discovered the technique of collage, or papier collé, that he started thinking about sculptures again. Sticking papers onto a picture (paper collé) was, in a way, already a step beyond the strict two-dimensional character of the painting. And when he began to use other materials, such as cardboard, tin, wood, string and wire, his pictures changed more and more into reliefs. This was a logical consequence, and it was all the more apparent in the way in which some parts of his pictures could be folded out from the surface. The traditional method for sculpting had been either additive or subtractive: a figure was either built up, out of clay, or it was hewn out of a block of wood or stone. Now, however, it was a matter of using a number of simple, ready-made components and fitting them together into varied and complex structures (Walther 1993, p. 46).
The first constructed sculpture was Guitare, a three-dimensional planar counterpart of Cubist painting that would signify a revolutionary departure from the traditional approaches, modeling and carving and would open the way to twentieth-century “constructed sculpture” (López de Benito 2009, p. 73). Although the original idea and technique for these paper sculptures was Braque’s, the realization of its formal possibilities was definitely Picasso’s (Richardson 1996, p. 254). One of the biggest challenges of Analytic Cubism had resulted from a dependence on the perceptual aspects of reality, by which the identification of the object essentially involved its visual characteristics. When the eye was no longer able to locate familiar forms due to increased abstraction, it could not identify the object. Hence, a new method of representation was needed—one that would not depend on a reconstruction of the object’s appearance, but on its true nature. Those were the circumstances under which this sculpture was created. Pablo was known for solving pictorial problems by sculptural means. Since his main concern was the dissolution of the object’s parts into the pictorial space, it is reasonable to suppose that he tried to secure its existence by highlighting the interrelationship among sections of the three-dimensional object in real space. Although the viewer is limited to one perspective s/he can see sections of both the front and the rear: the sections of the front contain the neck, the strings and the hole of the sounding board; the sections of the rear are the part protruding beyond the side contour (this part could at the same time represent the silhouette or profile) and also the part reflected through the negative void—the opening of the front plane. In analytical painting simultaneity of interior and exterior had been achieved through the use of transparent facets. Now, by using a new kind of material in the front plane of the sculpture, that of void representing solid (i.e., negative void), he succeeded in penetrating the object even in its three-dimensional variant (Markus 1996, pp. 233–46).
Insofar as the Cubist object is taken to exemplify concrete being or autonomous self-presence, it must refuse to function as representation. However, individual collage elements have been read as both real within the illusory context of painting or sculpture and as signs for a reality not physically present. The double status of these elements recapitulates the essential paradox of the Cubist work itself, which appears to exist both as a material object (and to call attention to itself as such) and as a mode of representation (Poggi 1992, pp. 59–61).
If Picasso had entered Cubism via sculptural thinking, he would emerge from it through sculptural activity as well. He began to savor the nature of the objects in his still lifes for their own sake rather than as signs or symbols. Beyond the need for concretization that he felt before tactile objects there was his awareness of a new phenomenon: all art involves creation. With relief sculpture, his output would come closer to the raw reality itself, which his pictures had merely projected through a vehicle and a procedure that were illusionistic (Cabanne 1979, pp. 169–70). Conceived as a worker’s lunch on a table, Nature morte99 was assembled from found or roughly cut wood pieces of varying thickness that he then painted after gluing. The objects standing on the tabletop or small sideboard appear to be a knife, a beer glass, two slices of sausage and a slice of cheese or pâté, carved in wood but painted realistically. The real fringe around the tabletop is adjacent to them. The wooden beading is real, but the glass is a satirical three-dimensional reconstruction in wood that recalls the two-dimensional plan-section-and-elevation analysis of objects of early Cubist painting. This is one of the first constructions to include nontraditional materials, such as upholstery fringe, and is an early example of the artist’s use of nails as integral to the composition. The sculpture shows a distinct separation between the vertically oriented still life and the horizontal emphasis of its surroundings. The perception of depth is enhanced by the actual shade cast by the relief glass (Mahler 2015, pp. 77–78). Thus, conceptual figuration is combined with natural imitation, the work moving back and forth from structural drawing to illusionism, and from Cubist space to classical perspective. The pedestal table is indicated by the arc of a wooden circle edged with trim, and a strip of molding which extends far enough to suggest an interior space. As Daix comments, the contrast between precise realism emphasized by the inclusion of the objects themselves and the baroque, conceptual, and anti-natural character of the sculpture introduces a clash between plain presence and poetic form (Daix 1993, pp. 136–37).
Verre et dé100 was also crudely constructed out of wood, which in its very naiveté increases our pleasure in the object. He created a background out of a board, which he cut to be a shadow or another perspective of the glass. The latter was nailed (presumably from the back) at its base. The stem and the bowl, however, were quite conspicuously nailed from the front. Both the glass and the die rest on a ledge also attached to the background. Into the nearest plane of the glass he carved three deep ridges to indicate it is fluted. The die is more trapezoidal than rectangular. Two of its faces, like the glass and the ellipse on the background, are further articulated with rather crude black paint. The die would play an important role in Picasso’s iconography at this time, probably in reference to the many unknowns surrounding Eva’s illness (Boggs 1992, p. 144). She had been diagnosed with cancer. Johnson points out that Stephane Mallarme’s last prose poem. “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” had been republished that same year. Max Jacob in response had written several poems under the title Le Cornet à des that year, although they were published in 1916. The critic further suggests that the number seven which was so conspicuous on many of the dice the artist included could be a reference to the constellation of the Big Dipper, which is associated with the North, winter, death (Johnson 1977, p. 126).
As Picasso passed that long summer at Avignon, both his sculptures and paintings became increasingly rich and pictorial. At the same time he painted a series of predominantly green still lifes, he took up work again on the type of small wooden constructions he had started to make in Paris that spring. In Verre, journal et dé,101 he used a small wooden box to frame his painterly relief Verre et journal.102 These reliefs reached their fullest expression in Verre, pipe, as de trèfle et dé,103 in which glass, pipe, and ace of clubs are placed within the most contained of all geometric forms, the circle. The construction was made of a perfectly ordinary object, probably the lid or base of a mirror, which now served as the background to the composition or as a tabletop, where familiar objects are secured to a wooden molding in the center of the space. The glass is often, paradoxically, seen in all of its states: as a simple outline cut into the marble background, as a curved volume whose profile is repeated in blue on the bas-relief, and as stippled geometric forms (Léal et al. 2000, pp. 176–80). The sheet-metal playing card placed at the right has the club cut out so that we see the green background through it. Although there is a concentration of colors with some red in the pointillist application in the center, the predominant hues are green and blue. The latter can be seen in the molding, the single plane profile of the glass directly above it and the ring around the rim of the pipe. Green dominates the background, and at its richest in the faux marbre sections (Seckel 1996, p. 42). The frame and the faux marbre green background quite reasonably may be understood as a cafe table with the pipe, the die, and the ace of clubs seen from above (Cooper and Tinterow 1983), no. 195). Daix, however, argues that the table is represented by the piece of blue molding on which the glass stands in profile and on which the die sits (Daix and Rosselet 1979, p. 788), similar to the table pressed up against the picture plane in Bouteille, cartes à jouer, verre, journal.104 For Jean Sutherland Boggs, both interpretations are valid. Switching back and forth between both valid interpretations (looking down at the round table or frontally at the molding) throws us into a spatial vortex (Boggs 1992, p. 162). Picasso discovered more clearly than before that the “seeing-machine” of the three-dimensional constructions could serve as a springboard for formal liberties in pictorial expression (Daix and Rosselet 1979, p. 160).
From relief constructions, Picasso progressed to a series of freestanding sculptures in spring made in painted bronze, wood or sheet iron. The series on the theme of an absinthe glass is considered one of the most innovative sculptural projects in his career. Absinthe, a highly addictive alcoholic beverage made from distilled wormwood, was thought to lead to insanity, but was nevertheless a popular drink in Parisian cafés. Due to its bitter taste, the green-tinted liquid was usually poured into a glass of water over a sugar cube resting on a slotted spoon (Philadelphia Museum of Art 2021). In 1914, with France on the brink of war, absinthe was a subject of fierce debate. It was prohibited in early 1915 as a threat to French health and moral vigor. The sculptures might represent the artist’s opposition to such prohibition (Adams 1980, p. 33). Le verre d’absinthe,105 one of these sculptures, was cast in bronze from a wax model based on the plaster original and subsequently decorated. A real absinthe spoon nestles between the modeled bronze sugar cube and glass. Picasso spoke of his desire to explore different modes of representation: “I was interested in the relation between the real spoon and the modeled glass. In the way they clashed with each other” (The Museum of Modern Art 2021). The sculpture is hollowed out to fuse interior and exterior: the liquid level is visible through the aperture, like a tongue in a gaping mouth. At the other side, the level projects through the glass’s contour, another reference to the transparency of the glass. In Wadley’s opinion, almost the whole range of Cubism’s liberating propositions for sculpture are present here: the reduction in representation to an emblematic language; the interchangeability of object and space; the uninhibited attitude to materials, including ready-made forms and images; the extension of subject-matter to include commonplace trivia, and finally, the transfer of the painting/sculpture fusion from near-painting to near-sculpture (Wadley 1970, pp. 119–23). Another thing Picasso did was to treat the glass metaphorically like a highly distorted human head, the opening in the wall the equivalent of a human eye with a great projecting eyelid, which is repeated on the opposite closed side of the “face” as well (Boggs 1992, pp. 147–48).
The new regard for color independent of form precipitated a transition to more baroque formulations. In Compotier, verre, bouteille, fruits (Nature morte verte),106 green is once again predominant, providing a continuous foil against which the staccato accents of other hues are played off. Pointillist stippling, which he had been using sparingly for over a year to differentiate a plane or indicate a bit of shadow, is employed more generously here, its dots given special brightness by the use of commercial enamels. To the right of the central bottle and glass are a pear and a bunch of grapes, and to the left a newspaper, fruit bowl and tobacco packet. The pear is an ingenious parody on the interplay of volume and plane, solidity and transparency, as well as a foil for the scintillating points of color that play round it. The striations of green, violet, yellow, orange and dark blue on the bottle are the stylistic counterpart of the color dots. Together with them, they serve to focus attention on the center of the composition through their high contrast with the brilliant complementary green of the background (Rubin 1972, p. 95). The Pointillist decoration extends to the letters JOU from Le Journal. There are several anomalies in the treatment of the objects: the bunch of grapes is given an angular stalk and a geometric right-hand side, creating a visual pun with the form of the bottle. Most peculiar is the fruit bowl on the left. The triangular mass of dots above it satirizes the organic nature of the shape it describes (Cooper 1995, p. 33).
When World War I broke out in the summer, the general patriotic mood and the desire to experience the “Wagnerian aspects of battle” prompted Masson to volunteer. Even Apollinaire applied for French citizenship so he could join (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 368; Vallentin 1963, p. 136). The idea of the war as essentially good for France was the accompaniment of a more generalized nationalism that increased as war started. Many would be prepared to dismiss all artistic endeavor as a frivolous luxury at a time of national emergency (Silver 1989, pp. 24–34). Conversely, being a civilian in Paris during war-time, especially for healthy young men, brought hazards of its own (Silver 1989, p. 5). Gris wrote to Kahnweiler: “I have been advised to go, and when I said I didn’t want to unless formally ordered to do so, I was told to be prepared even for that. But where shall I go?”107 He would write again a couple of weeks later: “What will happen to all of us? … All those of us who had sketched out our way through life must now change everything temporarily and get along as best we can. For, my dear friend, I can see that in the nightmare through which we are passing, previous engagements are no longer valid and each of us must make his own way, How? I don’t know”.108
On 2 August, Braque and Derain were mobilized, and Picasso went to see them off at the Avignon railroad station.109 The historian Franck describes the euphoria of the moment: “With a flower on the end of their rifles and a helmet by their sides, in a clattering of swords, sabers and bayonets, accompanied by waving flags and music, the troops marched up the avenues and converged toward the stations. Cavalrymen, dragoons, artillerymen, infantrymen and foot soldiers of the marching army had one common cry: “To Berlin!’ They estimated it would take a week to get there, and they would be back to Paris just as quickly, bearing the scalp of the Kaiser on the end of their guns” (Franck 2001, p. 176). For all that Avignon was far from the front, the town was deeply committed to the war effort. Refugees from Alsace and Lorraine had been lodged in schools, seminaries, factories, cinemas and theaters. Other buildings had been requisitioned as military hospitals and would be soon overflowing with wounded soldiers. Troops would be quartered in the Hôtel de Ville, municipal theater, courthouse and Palais des Papes, not to speak of garages and stables. On 19 September, the society painter Jacques-Emile Blanche wrote: “Avignon looked so papal yesterday that one was amazed to be confronted by the military at every turn. I never saw so many uniforms in my life. Avignon is a factory processing canon-fodder. There is a regiment of the Foreign Legion as well as troops (of all kinds): Russians, Poles, Italians, Greeks, Egyptians; two squads in red and blue uniforms going off on maneuvers; several Negroes and mulattos among them … Madness!” (Richardson 1996, p. 353).
To hold on to an illusion of normality, Picasso kept track of the whereabouts of most of his friends, many of whom were on the move. On 8 August, he had written to Gertrude, in London (Knightsbridge Hotel): “I have just received your letter. We’re in Avignon and are thinking of staying here for the time being. Braque and Derain are off to war. A few days ago, before the mobilization, we were in Paris for a few hours, just long enough to get my things a bit in order” (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 431). Eva had also kept her informed: “It is said that Apollinaire has joined up. J’apostrophe [Serge Férat] too. We have news from Braque; he’s in Le Havre, waiting to leave in turn. Of Derain we know nothing; he left us his dog Sentinelle. As for us, were staying here for a moment, for one never knows what will happen with all these sorrows”.110 Georges, mobilized, was indeed in Le Havre waiting to ship out. He would be assigned to the 224th infantry regiment, with the rank of sergeant (Cousins and Daix 1989, pp. 339, 431). The following day, German troops marched into France and pushed the French army to the Sedan.
It is possible that news that some of his acquaintances were coming back made him decide to return to the city after five months in Avignon. On 14 November, he wrote to Gertrude: “We plan to leave next Tuesday at 6.30 in the evening, and we hope to be in Paris the following morning around 7 … We’ll come to see you the very same day. I’ve already begun to take down my paintings and to put my brushes and paints in order” (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 432; Richardson 1996, p. 354; Baldassari 2007, p. 351). Three days later he and Eva took the night train to Paris, returning to their apartment at No. 5, bis, rue Schoelcher.111 With most of its young men at war, the city was cheerless, and Picasso, young and robust, would be viewed with mistrust by most people. Montparnasse was mostly deserted. Among the diminished band of friends still in Paris there was Jacob, too sickly and purblind for service; González and Gargallo, both Spaniards and therefore neutral too; The Italians Modigliani and de Chirico, as well as other foreigners like Chagall, Kisling, Soutine, Lipchitz, or Kremegne (O’Brian 1994, p. 210). Much as he sought solitude for working, he hated it; war, to him, was death even if he was not directly involved. Somewhat ambivalent in his attitude toward the war, he also had strong attachments to German patrons (Kahnweiler, Flechtheim, Thannhauser), which had led Cubism to be associated with les boches. Looking out on the tombstones from his studio window did nothing to cheer him up. One evening toward the end of autumn, walking up boulevard Raspail with Gertrude, Picasso saw a convoy of camouflaged artillery go by: “Cést nous qui avons fait ça”, he said. He was delighted to see Cubist forms and colors, so recently mocked by the public, taken up by the military. He told Cocteau jokingly: “If they want to make an army invisible, they have only to dress their men as harlequins” (Cabanne 1979, pp. 170–71).
When compared to the Cubist works executed only months previously, Cubist paintings made this winter in Paris, like Guitare et journal,112 were extremely stark. Space and form began to spread into larger simpler shapes bounded more often by straight lines. Curves became all the more emphatic owing to their rarity. Large rectangular shapes were filled with flat color or given a boost of new vitality by employing stronger and more varied colors, by introducing ornamental motifs and by making lively textural variations. In most cases the compositions were based on a central object which could be a guitar, a man or woman seated in a chair, or a still life group on a table, as in this case (Penrose 1981, p. 203). In the direct center is the sound hole of a vertical guitar. The swell of its upper half is indicated by a white patch outlined in black, its strings and pegs easily discerned toward the top. Some very abstract signs suggest the presence of a pipe and a glass. Toward the bottom is the table top, a large brown trapezoid which is curiously inverted and suggests the very opposite of recessional space. Synthetic Cubism was no longer concerned with exploring the anatomy of nature, but turned rather to the creation of a new anatomy that was far less dependent upon the data of perception. Instead of reducing real objects to their abstract components, the works appeared to invent objects from very real assembled elements (Rosenblum 1976, p. 71). Throughout the composition, Picasso used various forms of pointillism to achieve different effects. On the brown tabletop, these little touches of ochre suggest woodgrain; on the off-white area of the newspaper identified by the letters JOU, the dots stand for newsprint; even the grains of sand in the dominant central plane could be seen as a punning variation of the pointillist technique.
Instruments de musique sur un guéridon113 was probably painted at the end of the year or perhaps early 1915, judging by a photograph showing it in an unfinished state. Belonging to a series of shots taken on the same day (with Picasso unusually wearing a white shirt, tie and wide fabric belt) and in the same location (the studio at 5bis, rue Schoelcher), each picture shows the artist in front of one of his paintings. The darker color palette also places it around this time. The grid-like formation of regular rows of monochromatic dots would become a stylistic feature of the winter, as seen in Guitare, clarinette et bouteille sur une table.114 The oil confirms a general melancholic trend in his work. Not only was the subtly modulated background a dark grey, but black became quite prominent. If the general feeling was melancholy, perhaps it was also because it coincided with a time of aesthetic crisis. The dangers of abstraction were being discussed once again. The complex composition takes some effort to decipher. Being made up of multiple geometric color planes that are entirely free of any denotative function. These planes are superimposed in layers from bottom to top, occasionally casting shadows, giving them an almost tangible object-like appearance. They might represent one or two instruments lying on top of a black mat, its fringes spreading over the pedestal table. Each of its three massive legs are depicted differently: a right-angled leg to the left, a leg sporting a slipper-like shoe in the middle, and a soft, fleshy curve on the right. Only the color black provides a sense of commonality (Christie’s 2009a, cat. no. 50, 1209). In the Paris of 1915, when so many things seemed to be disintegrating right under his feet—his friends being mobilized, his dealer in exile, his companion getting worse—he tried to cling to the few things that had remained unchanged around him, and he tried to document them in the most comprehensible language possible (Palau i Fabre 1990, p. 426).


This article received no external funding.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


Portrait de Gertrude Stein. Paris. [Winter/1905–] End-February–Summer [–Fall]/1906. Oil on canvas. 100 × 81.3 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. (Inv 47.106). Gertrude Stein Bequest, 1946. Online Picasso Project 06:027.
Others date their first meeting later to spring (Caruncho and Fàbregas 2017, p. 61). According to Gertrude Stein, the first meeting was shortly before her departure for Fiesole and Picasso for Gósol (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 362; also Mahler 2015, p. 41).
It ran from 20 March to 30 April 1906 (Richardson 1991, p. 413).
On 15 April 1906 (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 363).
Chevaux au bain. Paris. [Winter/1905–] March–April/1906. Gouache on tan paper board. 37.8 × 58.1 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. (Inv 1984.433.274). Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982. Online Picasso Project 06:061.
Le meneur de cheval nu. Paris. March–April/1906. Oil on canvas. 220.6 × 131.2 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 575.1964). Gift of William S. Paley, Manhasset, NY, 1964. Online Picasso Project 06:012.
Buste de jeune femme de trois-quarts. [Gósol]. [Spring–Summer]/1906. Woodcut on tissue-thin tan Japon, edition 15. 56 × 38.5 cm. Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. Online Picasso Project 06:101.
Autoportrait à la palette. Gósol–Paris. [Late-Summer–] Late-Fall/1906. Oil on canvas. 91.9 × 73.3 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Inv 1950.1.1). A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1950. Online Picasso Project 06:026.
Tête de jeune homme (Autoportrait). Paris. [Summer] Late-Fall/1906. Oil on canvas. 39 × 30 cm. The Picasso Estate. Online Picasso Project 06:025.
Deux nus (Étude). Paris. Fall/1906. Conté crayon & charcoal on paper. 62 × 47.3 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. The Joan & Lester Avnet Collection. Online Picasso Project 06:113.
Femme nue assise, les jambes croisées. Paris. [Fall–Winter] [Late]/1906. Oil on canvas mounted on wood. 151 × 100 cm. Národni Galerie, Prague. (Inv O 3220). Purchased 1923. Online Picasso Project 06:130.
Deux nus. Paris. [Late]/1906. Oil on canvas. 151.3 × 93 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 621.1959). Gift of G. David Thompson, in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., 1959. Online Picasso Project 06:024
Trois nus (Étude). Paris. [Fall] Winter/1906. Oil on canvas. 25.1 × 30.2 cm. The Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA. (Inv BF.211). Online Picasso Project 06:234.
(Richardson 1996, p. 25; Franck 2001, p. 96; Daemgen 2005, p. 19). Others date the visit more generally to spring (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 364; Roe 2015, p. 177); later to May (Daix 2007, p. 19; Mahler 2015, p. 54); to May or June (Fluegel 1980, p. 87; Dagen 2009, p. 484); to summer (Warncke and Walther 1991, p. 146; Torras 2002, p. 106); to the end of June or early July (Cabanne 1979, p. 116); or more generally to June or July (Daix cited by Richardson 1996, p. 25; also Mahler 2015, p. 54).
Les demoiselles d’Avignon. Paris. [Late-March] June–July/1907. Oil on canvas. 243.9 × 233.7 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 333.1939). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. Online Picasso Project 07:001.
Femme au corsage jaune. Paris. Spring/1907. Oil on canvas. 130.5 × 96.5 cm. Private collection. Online Picasso Project 07:043.
(Blier 2019, p. 74). Others date the preparations earlier to February (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 363).
Nu à la draperie: tête de femme (Étude). Paris. Summer–Fall/1907. Oil on canvas. 61.4 × 47.6 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 278.83). Mr. & Mrs. John Hay Whitney Collection, 1983. Online Picasso Project 07:032.
(Richardson 1996, p. 43). Others date the completion to early July (Fluegel 1980, p. 87); or to late summer (Unger 2018, p. 318).
Figure. Paris. [Summer]/1907. Carved oak with touches of oil paint. 80.5 × 24 × 20.8 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 07:376.
Homme debout. Paris. [Summer]/1907. Carved wood, painted in yellow. 37 × 6 × 6 cm. Private collection. Online Picasso Project 07:389.
Trois femmes. Paris. [Fall–Late] [End/1907–] Spring–Summer [–Fall]/1908 [–January/1909]. Oil on canvas. 200 × 178 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Online Picasso Project 08:009.
Trois femmes: nu debout (Étude). Paris. Winter/1907–1908. Pen & black ink on handmade paper with cardboard backing. 31.5 × 23.7 cm. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart. (Inv C 59/889). Graphische Sammlung. Online Picasso Project 07:333.
Bols et cruche (Cruche, bol et compotier). Paris. Spring/1908. Oil on canvas. 81.9 × 65.7 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Inv 1952.61.93). A. E. Gallatin Collection. Online Picasso Project 08:002.
Carafe et trois bols. Paris. [Spring–] [Summer]/1908. Oil on cardboard. 66 × 50.5 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv 8986). Online Picasso Project 08:032.
Bol vert et tomates. Paris. Spring–Summer/1908. Tempera on wood panel. 20.6 × 26.9 cm. Christie’s. #507, 6146, 06/30/99. Online Picasso Project 08:260.
Femme à l’éventail. Paris. Late-Spring–Summer/1908. Oil on canvas. 150 × 100 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv 7705). Online Picasso Project 08:021.
Buste de femme accoudée (Femme dormante). Paris. Late-Spring–Summer/1908. Oil on canvas. 81.2 × 65.4 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 575.70). Acquired by exchange from Galerie Beyeler, Basel, in 1970, through the Katherine S. Dreier Bequest, and the Hillman Periodicals, Philip Johnson, Miss Janice Loeb, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and Mr. and Mrs. Norbert Schimmel Funds. Online Picasso Project 08:111.
(Richardson 1996, p. 97). Others date the trip to summer (Unger 2018, p. 361).
Among the other exhibiting artists were Derain, Dufy, Friesz, Marquet, Matisse, van Dongen, and Vlaminck (Roe 2015, p. 234).
Paysage. Paris. [Spring/1908]. Gouache & charcoal on thick beige paper. 47.6 × 61.6 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. (Inv 2014.464). Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, Purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2014. Online Picasso Project 08:352.
Paysage. Paris. Spring–Summer/1908. Gouache over pencil on panel. 26.9 × 21.2 cm. Christie’s. #48, 1900, 11/06/07. Online Picasso Project 08:155.
Nature morte à la tête de mort. Paris. Summer–Fall/1907 [–Spring/1908]. Oil on canvas. 116.3 × 89 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv 9162). Online Picasso Project 07:008.
Nu appuyé (Femme étendue). Paris. [Spring]/1908. Gouache on wood. 21 × 27 cm. Christie’s. #13, 3442, 11/04/13. Online Picasso Project 08:017.
Vue du lac entre deux baigneurs (Étude). Paris. Summer/1908. Pen, ink, gouache & label stuck on on cardboard. 45.5 × 26 cm. Hilde Thannhauser Succession, Bern. Online Picasso Project 08:121.
Maisonette dans un jardin (Maisonnette et arbres). [La Rue-des-Bois] [Paris]. [Early-August/1908 [–Early/1909]. Oil on canvas. 92 × 73 cm. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. (Inv 3350). Online Picasso Project 08:013.
Paysage: La Rue-des-Bois. La Rue-des-Bois. Early-August [September]/1908. Oil on canvas. 100.8 × 81.3 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 1413.74). Gift of David and Peggy Rockefeller, 1974. Online Picasso Project 08:007.
Maisonnette dans un jardin. La Rue-des-Bois. [Late-Summer–Early-Fall] August/1908. Oil on canvas. 73.6 × 60.5 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. Online Picasso Project 08:005.
Vase de fleurs, verre de vin, et cuillère. La Rue-des-Bois. [Fall] August/1908. Oil on canvas. 81 × 65 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv 8999). Online Picasso Project 08:008.
Nature morte au bouquet de fleurs. La Rue-des-Bois. [Summer] August/1908. Oil on canvas. 38.2 × 46.5 cm. Sotheby’s. #27, N09219, 11/04/14. Online Picasso Project 08:145.
La fermière: buste (Madame Putman). La Rue-des-Bois. [Summer] August/1908. Oil on canvas. 81.2 × 65.3 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv 6531). Acquisition 1930. Online Picasso Project 08:123.
La fermière en pied. La Rue-des-Bois. [Late-Summer–Early-Fall] August/1908. Oil on canvas. 81.5 × 65.5 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv GE.9161). Acquisition 1948. Online Picasso Project 08:004.
Fruits et verre. Paris. Fall/1908 [–1909]. Tempera on wood panel. 26.7 × 21.6 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 279.83). Online Picasso Project 08:012.
Deux femmes nues. Paris. Spring/1909. Oil on canvas. 100 × 81 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Online Picasso Project 09:003.
Nature morte à la chocolatière. Paris. [Early] Spring/1909. Watercolor & gouache with traces of charcoal on white laid on paper. 61.6 × 47.3 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Online Picasso Project 09:049.
La reine Isabeau. Paris. [Winter/1908–1909] Spring/1909. Oil on canvas. 92 × 73 cm. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. Online Picasso Project 09:004.
Femme à la mandoline. Paris. Spring/1909. Oil on canvas. 92 × 73 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. (Inv 6579). Online Picasso Project 09:010.
Buste de femme. Paris. Spring [–Summer]/1909. Oil on canvas. 73 × 60 cm. Tate Modern, London. (Inv N05915). Purchase 1949. Online Picasso Project 09:047.
Femme assise (Femme au châle). Paris. [Winter/1908–] Spring/1909. Oil on canvas. 81 × 65 cm. Sotheby’s. #20, PF1516, 12/10/15. Online Picasso Project 09:052.
As Golding emphasized, it was “thanks to Braque’s example and enthusiasm that Picasso was led to a deeper understanding of Cézanne”. (Golding 1968, p. 69).
Tête d’homme. Paris. Spring/1909. Gouache on paper. 62.3 × 48.2 cm. Christie’s. #27, 9636, 05/09/01. Online Picasso Project 09:134.
Nature morte au cuir à rasoir. Paris. Spring/1909. Oil on canvas. 55 × 40.5 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. D. H. Kahnweiler Legacy. Online Picasso Project 09:125.
Tête de femme. Paris. [1908] Spring/1909. Gouache & watercolor on paper. 60.3 × 47.6 cm. Christie’s. #33, 2164, 05/06/09. Online Picasso Project 09:162.
Buste de femme. Paris. [Spring]/1909. Brush & black ink with ink wash over pencil on paper. 62.5 × 47.3 cm. Christie’s. #0042, 1900, 11/06/07. Online Picasso Project 09:168.
Femme nue assise. Paris. [1908–] Spring/1909. Oil on canvas. 116.5 × 89.4 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Inv 1950.134.164). Louise & Walter C. Arensberg Collection, 1950. Online Picasso Project 09:178.
Bouquet de fleurs. Paris. [Summer]/1909. Watercolor & gouache on cream laid paper. 63 × 47 cm. Christie’s. #26, 1655, 05/02/06. Online Picasso Project 09:142.
Maisons sur la colline (Horta d’Ebre). Horta d’Ebre. Summer/1909. Oil on canvas. 65 × 81 cm. Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. Online Picasso Project 09:029.
Le réservoir (Horta d’Ebre). Horta d’Ebre. Summer/1909. Oil on canvas. 61.5 × 51.1 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 81.1991). David Rockefeller Collection. Online Picasso Project 09:030.
Homme au chapeau (Portrait de Braque). Paris. Winter/1909–1910. Oil on canvas. 61 × 50 cm. Nationalgalerie, Museum Berggruen, Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin. (Inv MB.16.2000). Online Picasso Project 09:121.
Éventail, boîte de sel et melon. Paris. Fall [–Winter]/1909. Oil on canvas. 81.3 × 64.2 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art. (Inv 1969.22). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund. Online Picasso Project 09:013.
Carafe, compote et chandelier. Paris. Fall/1909. Oil on canvas. 54.6 × 73 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Online Picasso Project 09:037.
Pomme. Paris. Fall/1909. Watercolor on paper. 25 × 28.5 cm. Christie’s. #33, 16930, 02/27/19. Online Picasso Project 09:192.
Pomme, coffret et verre à vin. Paris. Fall/1909. India ink, wash & watercolor on laid paper. 22.9 × 34.7 cm. Christie’s. #39, 3585, 03/26/14. Online Picasso Project 09:194.
Femme assise dans un fauteuil en mangeant des fleurs. Paris. [Late] Winter/1909–1910 [Spring/1910]. Oil on canvas. 100 × 73 cm. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. (Inv AM.4391.P). Georges Salles Bequest, 1967. Online Picasso Project 09:032.
Portrait de Wilhelm Uhde. Paris. [Late/1909] Spring [–Fall]/1910. Oil on canvas. 81 × 60 cm. Joseph Pullitzer Jr. Collection, St. Louis, MO. Online Picasso Project 10:013.
Jeune fille à la mandoline (Fanny Tellier). Paris. [Late–] Spring/1910. Oil on canvas. 100.3 × 73.6 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 966.79). Nelson A. Rockefeller Bequest, 1979. Online Picasso Project 10:002.
Femme nue. Paris. [Spring]/1910. Pencil & India ink on paper. 51.5 × 41 cm. Národni Galerie, Prague. (Inv K 33 590). Online Picasso Project 10:072.
Femme nue debout. Paris. [Winter/1909–1910] Late-Spring/1910. Oil on canvas. 97.7 × 76.2 cm. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (Inv 1954:11). Consolidated Purchase Funds, 1954. Online Picasso Project 10:009.
Le guitariste. Cadaqués. Mid-Summer/1910. Oil on canvas. 100 × 73 cm. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. (Inv AM.3970.P). Gift of Mr. & Mrs André Lefèvre, 1952. Online Picasso Project 10:018.
Femme à la mandoline. Cadaqués. Mid-Summer/1910. Oil on canvas. 91.5 × 59 cm. Museum Ludwig, Köln. (Inv ML 01268). Schenkung 2001. Loan since 1976. Online Picasso Project 10:010.
La table de toilette. Cadaqués. Mid-Summer [–Fall]/1910. Oil on canvas. 61 × 46 cm. Ralph F. Colin Collection, NY. Online Picasso Project 10:011.
Nature morte avec verre et citron. Cadaqués. Mid-Summer–Fall/1910. Oil on canvas. 74 × 101.3 cm. Cincinnati Art Museum. (Inv 1967.1428). Bequest of Mary E. Johnston. Online Picasso Project 10:003.
Portrait d’Ambroise Vollard. Paris. [Winter/1909–] Spring [–Fall]/1910. Oil on canvas. 93 × 66 cm. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. (Inv 3401). Online Picasso Project 10:012.
Portrait de Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. Paris. Fall [–Winter]/1910. Oil on canvas. 101.1 × 73.3 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago. (Inv 1948.561). Gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman in memory of Charles Barnett Goodspeed. Online Picasso Project 10:001.
L’homme à la mandoline. Paris. Fall/1911 [–Spring/1912] [–1913]. Oil on canvas. 162 × 71 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 11:079.
Le mandoliniste. Paris. [Fall] Spring/1911. Oil on canvas. 100.5 × 69.5 cm. Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel. (Inv 75.4). Ernst Beyeler Collection, Basel; Fernand C. Graindorge Collection, Liège. Online Picasso Project 11:025.
Moine à la mandoline. Paris. [Winter/1910–1911] Spring/1911. Oil on canvas. 98 × 77 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Online Picasso Project 11:070.
(Golding 1968, p. 92). Others date the introduction of stencilled letters to early July (Fluegel 1980, p. 123).
La bouteille de rhum. Céret. [Late-August]/1911. Oil on canvas. 61.3 × 50.5 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC. (Inv 1999.363.63). Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998. Online Picasso Project 11:012.
Nature morte à la chaise cannée. Paris. Mid-May/1912. Oil, oilcloth & pasted paper on oval canvas framed with cord. 29 × 37 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 12:002.
(Boggs 1992, pp. 102–3). Others date this collage to early in the year (Golding 1968, p. 103).
On 3 September 1912 (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 338).
(López de Benito 2009, p. 57). Others date the introduction of this technique to early September (Monod-Fontaine 1994, p. 46); to simply September (Golding 1968, p. 103; Fraquelli et al. 2016, p. 162); or to late September (O’Brian 1994, p. 195).
He returned on 14 September 1912 (Lebensztejn 2007, p. 44; López de Benito 2009, p. 59). Others date the return earlier to 12 September (Monod-Fontaine 1994, p. 46); 13 September (Cabanne 1979, p. 153; Fluegel 1980, p. 151); or later to 17 September (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 338).
Guitare sur une table II. Paris. [Fall] October/1912. Oil, sand & charcoal on canvas. 51.1 × 61.5 cm. Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller, Class 1930. Online Picasso Project 12:021.
Violon, partition et journal. Paris. [Winter] Fall/1912. Oil & sand on canvas. 35 × 27 cm. Private collection. Online Picasso Project 12:233.
Guitare. Paris. October–December/1912. Construction of cardboard, string & wire (restored). 65.1 × 33 × 19 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 640.1973). Gift of the artist. Online Picasso Project 12:009.
Guitare et feuille de musique. Paris. [Fall] [October–November]/1912. Pasted paper, pastel & charcoal on paperboard. 58 × 61 cm. Private collection. Online Picasso Project 12:054.
Tête d’homme. Paris. Fall–Winter/1912 [–1913]. Charcoal, graphite, gray wash, laid paper & newsprint on white laid paper. 57.3 × 47.9 cm. Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. (Inv 1979.18). Gift of Virginia Deknatel in memory of Frederick B. Deknatel. Online Picasso Project 12:283.
Bouteille et verre sur une table. Paris. Fall–Winter/1912. Collage, charcoal, India ink & pencil on paper. 61.6 × 47 cm. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. Online Picasso Project 12:298.
Verre et bouteille de Suze. Paris. [Fall] Post-18-November/1912 [–1913]. Charcoal, gouache & pasted paper. 64.5 × 50 cm. Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (Washington University, St. Louis). (Inv WU 3773). Kende Sale Fund, 1946. Online Picasso Project 12:038.
Guitare, partition, verre. Paris. [Fall] Post-18-November/1912. Pasted paper, gouache, & charcoal on paper. 47.9 × 37.5 cm. McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX. (Inv 1950.112). Bequest of Marion Koogler McNay. Online Picasso Project 12:037.
Violon. Paris. [Fall] Post-18-November/1912. Charcoal, colored paper, newspaper & wallpaper pasted onto cardboard. 65 × 50 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 12:200.
Violon. Paris. [Fall/1912] Post-3-December/1912 [Winter/1912–1913] [–1914]. Charcoal, pastel & newsprint on white laid paper. 62 × 47 cm. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. (Inv AM.2914.D), Gift of Henri Laugier, 1963. Online Picasso Project 12:059.
Nature morte. Paris. Spring/1914. Painted wood & upholstery fringe. 25.5 × 46 × 9 cm. Tate Modern, London. (Inv T01136). Purchased 1969. Online Picasso Project 14:026.
Verre et dé. Paris. Spring/1914. Elements of pine wood painted & joined together. 17 × 16.2 × 5.5 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 14:073.
Verre, journal et dé. Paris. [Spring]/1914. Painted fir & tin plate, iron wire & oil on wood panel. 17.4 × 13.5 × 3 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 14:019.
Verre et journal. Avignon. Summer/1914. Painted wood, pencil & oil on wood panel. 15.4 × 17.5 × 3 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 14:249.
Verre, pipe, as de trèfle et dé. Avignon. Summer/1914. Painted wood & metal on wood painted in oil. 8.5 × 34 cm. Musée Picasso, Paris. Dation 1979. Online Picasso Project 14:009.
Bouteille, cartes à jouer, verre, journal. Avignon. Summer/1914. Oil, sand & pencil on board mounted on cradled wood panel. 31.8 × 42.9 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Inv 1952.61.95). A. E. Gallatin Collection. Online Picasso Project 14:226.
Le verre d’absinthe. Paris. Spring/1914. Painted bronze & perforated silver sugar strainer. 21.5 × 16.5 × 8.5 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. Louise Reinhardt Smith (Mrs. Bertram Smith) Bequest. Online Picasso Project 14:004.
Compotier, verre, bouteille, fruits (Nature morte verte). Avignon. Summer/1914. Oil on canvas. 59.7 × 79.4 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (Inv 92.1934). Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Collection. Online Picasso Project 14:024.
Letter from Juan Gris dated 3 August 1914 (Silver 1989, p. 4).
Letter from Juan Gris dated 16 August 1914 (Silver 1989, p. 4).
Letter from Eva Gouel to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas in London dated 24 August 1914 (Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 431; Baldassari 2007, p. 351).
(Cousins and Daix 1989, p. 339; Richardson 1996, p. 354; López de Benito 2009, p. 145). Others date the return earlier to late October (Baldassari et al. 2002, p. 368); to late October or early November (Fluegel 1980, p. 178); to the end of october or early November (Dagen 2009, p. 485); simply to November (Cabanne 1979, p. 170; Fraquelli et al. 2016, p. 162); to mid-November (Daemgen 2005, p. 22); or later to the end of November (Milde 2002, p. 398).
Guitare et journal. Paris. Fall–Winter/[1914] [Winter/1915–1916]. Oil on canvas. 81.2 × 64.8 cm. Christie’s. #9, 11/11/92. Online Picasso Project 14:209.
Instruments de musique sur un guéridon. Paris. [Fall] [Winter/1914–1915] [Early/1915] [Winter/1915–1916]. Oil & sand on canvas. 129.2 × 88.9 cm. Christie’s. #50, 1209, 02/23–25/09. Online Picasso Project 14:256.
Guitare, clarinette et bouteille sur une table. Paris [Montrouge], [1915–] Second-Half/1916. Oil & sandpaper on canvas. 116.8 × 74.9 cm. Galerie Beyeler, Basel. Formerly Wright Ludington Collection. Online Picasso Project 16:045.


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Mallen, E. The Embodiment of Artistic Objects in Pablo Picasso’s Cubism. Arts 2022, 11, 32.

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Mallen, Enrique. 2022. "The Embodiment of Artistic Objects in Pablo Picasso’s Cubism" Arts 11, no. 1: 32.

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