Art: Focus on Picasso

Think about Picasso. What do you think of? Round, buxom women maybe? The weeping woman with her eerily monochrome handkerchief perhaps? As a lover of Picasso, my fondness for these works is as great as any other art lovers. But, let me briefly explain to you just what it is I love in particular about this great artist; the painting I think of when I hear his name.

What fascinates me most about Picasso, despite the grandeur of his rainbow-hued oils, is his simple, dull-toned Cubist works. Picasso, along with Braque, was a Cubist. But I’m sure you already knew that. This iconic movement upheld many ideas and values: it was, essentially, a fundamental re-working of established art practice. Cubism signals the first time artists looked at an object using multiple viewpoints rather than observing it from one still standing point. As a result, what we get from Picasso’s Cubist works is an experience of the object that represents reality in a non- mimetic way.

But, that’s enough of the dusty academic jargon for now: let’s take a look…

'Nude WOma

‘Nude Woman’, 1910

‘Nude Woman’, 1910 is my personal favourite. I guess what I love is the shape of the piece; the portrait form so common of the Cubists is taken to its extremes. In turn, this exaggeration of form reflects on the way Picasso has analysed the woman’s body itself to the edge of its extremities.

‘Nude Woman’ demonstrates quite beautifully what lies at the heart of the Cubist movement: a compulsion to unpick the language of mimesis and explore different methods of representation.

This painting, however, has another, perhaps more sinister side. In 1910 when Picasso painted ‘Nude Woman’, the X-Ray was born. How perfect, for an artist who wanted to analyse the human body to new, never-seen-before depths. The discovery of X-Rays quite simply destroyed illusionistic images of the human body prescribed by pretty much all art prior to Picasso.

Picasso paints ‘Nude Woman’ with graduated colour from a monotonous palette, thus indicating the body’s layers in a conceptual way.

Therefore, what I perhaps love most about ‘Nude Woman’, and where it is my favourite of Picasso’s works, is that it tears apart the academic prototype for figure painting. Crude contours and gradual modulations of colour bring the work together with a level of unity. Yet, it is a unity that completely defies conventional modes of order with regards to the body. In essence, Picasso uses ‘Nude Woman’ to express how scientific discovery has turned reality upside down…


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