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Woman Sitting on the Terrace of a Cafe
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wbillingsley's picture

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Picasso’s art is not actually as weird as you might think.

Don’t get me wrong, we are after all talking about the guy who invented cubism and the mind behind Guernica. However, if you look at the broad spectrum of his art there are definite patterns that emerge, and a method to his madness can be discovered. Femme assise à la terrasse d'un café has all the elements needed to see this pattern.

The first element that we should take notice of is the subject. Picasso was artistically driven by his many romances, and because he painted a considerable number of the women he slept with, we can use his numerous lays as a sort of map to see where his mind was at the time. Here we have an unnamed French woman, who is probably one of the many French prostitutes he slept with while he was living in Paris, which cues us into the fact that this would have been early in his career.

However, Picasso painted a lot of sex workers, and apparently did not quite understand the concept of monogamy, so the women he depicted, even the ones he was married to, cannot be depended upon exclusively as an easy marker. The other element that we can use to see where his work is coming from is his use of continuous harsh lines, particularly in the depiction of noses. In 1906 Picasso drew upon techniques he found in Iberian and ancient Spanish sculptures. A defining feature of those works is a line that runs continuously from the eyebrow through the nose. Notice here that element is absent, however in works like Les Demoiselles d'Avignon nearly all the faces have it. In this piece and works like Old Woman, his lines are softer and, while the work is still a bit abstract, it is far from the avant-garde creations he made later in life, particularly the ones he created after he introduced cubism to the world.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. Gersh-Nesic, Beth “Picasso's Women: Wives, Lovers, and Muses” Thought Co. 10/19/19 https://www.thoughtco.com/picassos-women-183426
  2. Ovid “Picasso's Last Stand, the untold story of the last decade of his life. BBC” Youtube 03/24/2018 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tnnzwpe_-tY
  3. Philadelphia Museum of Art “Picasso Posse: Picasso's Self-Portrait” Youtube 03/22/10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdqvvAoRn9A