The original was created using, oil on canvas
When I was a child, my mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you'll be a general. If you become a monk you'll end up as the pope,” Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.
Though spending most of his adult life in France, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was born in Málaga, Spain. The son of an academic painter, Picasso began to draw at an early age and is said to have surpassed his father’s artistic ability by age fourteen! In 1895 the family moved to Barcelona, and Picasso studied at La Lonja, the academy of fine arts. Picasso’s first exhibition took place in Barcelona in 1900, and that fall he visited Paris for the first of several stays during the early years of the century. Picasso eventually settled in Paris in April 1904, and his circle of friends soon included Guillaume Apollinaire, Gertrude and Leo Stein, and art dealers, Ambroise Vollard and Berthe Weill.
Considered one of the greatest and most-influential artists of the 20th century, his artistic output includes over 20,000 paintings, prints, drawings, ceramics, theater sets and costumes that convey intellectual, political, social, and amorous messages throughout as their themes. Given his nearly 80-year long career, Picasso is known for endlessly reinventing himself, often changing styles so profoundly that his life's work has been broken down into seven distinct stages:
Interior with a Girl Drawingis one of Picasso’s later works and is therefore a culmination of many of his styles. By the 1930s, Picasso adopts a version of Cubism with little fragmentation, broad fields of contrasting, expressive color, and oversimplified outlines resembling early Fauvism.
In Cubist paintings, objects are broken apart and reassembled in an abstracted form, highlighting their complex geometric shapes and depicting them from multiple, simultaneous viewpoints. Cubism deconstructed the conventions of perspective that had dominated painting since the Renaissance. As a result, it became about how to see an object or figure rather than what the artist was looking at. At once destructive and creative, Cubism shocked, appalled and fascinated the art world.
Many consider the period in which he painted Interior with a Girl Drawing to be Picasso’s most prolific due in part to his new-found love and muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Picasso was forty-five (and still married to Olga Khokhlova) and Walter was seventeen when they met in front of the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris in 1927. Picasso was immediately struck by her beauty and proclaimed: “You have an interesting face. I would like to do a portrait of you. I feel we are going to do great things together. I am Picasso.” Despite his esteem in the art word, Walter had never heard of him, so he took her to a nearby bookstore to show her a monograph of his work. Soon after this brief encounter, Walter became Picasso’s mistress and muse, and perhaps, the greatest love of his life. Without question she served as the inspiration for some of his most beautiful and sensual paintings and sculptures.
Walter lacked a deep understanding of Picasso’s work but admired it because it celebrated their love. She wrote on the back of one of his poems: “I love you and give you everything I have.” Their daughter, Maya, was born in 1935. According to art critic, Jerry Saltz,
Picasso said she saved his life. And it’s true that from the moment she appears in his work, in early 1927, his art gets plusher and more immediate, catapulting him out of Cubism, paving the way for all his subsequent efforts. Marie-Thérèse is the fertile inspiration that made Picasso Picasso after Cubism.
With a voluptuous form and strong features, including cobalt-blue eyes and blond hair, Walter was also innocent and reserved. Because of her appealing physique and submissive nature, Walter could easily be directed to suit Picasso’s pictorial and sculptural sensibilities. This made her an ideal muse and model for the Surrealist period, in which he explored extreme physical and psychological states, often by rendering the human figure with imaginary and distorted forms. His association with Surrealism, although never transforming his work entirely, encouraged the soft forms and tender eroticism of portraits of his mistress Marie-Thérèse.
Picasso’s later paintings like Interior with a Girl Drawing display simple, childlike imagery and technique. While defending the artistic legitimacy of these later works, Picasso once remarked upon passing a group of school children, “When I was as old as these children, I could draw like Raphael, but it took me a lifetime to learn to draw like them.”
Interior with a Girl Drawing employs the expressive qualities of bold colors and gentle curves to lyrically portray Marie-Thérèse. Here, she is depicted drawing while seated, legs stretched out, before a mirror. Mirrors appear often in Picasso’s work, and here it is not just a decorative object, it plays an active role in the narrative. Is she contemplating her appearance? Drawing her reflection? The figure slumped hands in head seated behind her sleeps unaware of her surroundings while shaded from the sunlight that pours directly onto Marie-Thérèse’s face. In this piece, Picasso embraces not only a vibrant palette, but also sumptuous and painterly brushstrokes to convey Marie-Thérèse’s beauty, which had become for him the personification of womanhood and fertility.
*analytical cubism – (1908-12) Dominated the first four years of the movement. It is characterized by monochromatic, topsy-turvy canvases full of overlapping, geometric forms. The arrangement of these fragments form the subject, which is often unrealistically depicted from multiple angles at once.
*cubism – An artistic style that features subject matter broken down into fractured forms. Pioneered by both Picasso and Georges Braque and renowned as one of the most important art movements, Cubism is separated into two primary phases: Analytical and Synthetic.
*fauvism – Fauvism is the name applied to the work produced by a group of artists (which included Henri Matisse and André Derain) from around 1905 to 1910, which is characterized by intensely vivid, non-naturalistic and exuberant colors and fierce brushwork. The name les fauves (‘the wild beasts’) was coined by the critic Louis Vauxcelles when he saw the work of Henri Matisse and André Derain in an exhibition, the salon d’automne in Paris, in 1905.
painterly – Painterly refers to the application of paint in a ‘loose’ or less than controlled manner, resulting in the appearance of visible brushstrokes within the finished painting. The painterly painting relies on color to express form.
*synthetic cubism – Unlike Analytical Cubist works, paintings rendered in the Synthetic Cubist style were simplified, polychromatic, and inspired by collage art. Like the former phase of the movement, however, these paintings convey an interest in abstraction.
*surrealism – An artistic and literary movement led by French poet André Breton from 1924 through World War II. Drawing on the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud, the Surrealists sought to overthrow what they perceived as the oppressive rationalism of modern society by accessing the sur réalisme (superior reality) of the subconscious. In his 1924 “Surrealist Manifesto,” Breton argued for an uninhibited mode of expression derived from the mind’s involuntary mechanisms, particularly dreams, and called on artists to explore the uncharted depths of the imagination with radical new methods and visual forms. These ranged from abstract “automatic” drawings to hyper-realistic painted scenes inspired by dreams and nightmares to uncanny combinations of materials and objects.
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-Johnny DePalma, Owner / Curator
-Janelle Graves, Art Historian / Museum Educator