prostitutes at the right. The woman at the lower right seems
especially ferocious, as her contorted face twists around to
confront the viewer. Powerful expression is certainly present
here, but even more importantly Picasso is here beginning to
reject the illusionism that formed the basis of western art. An
exhibit of Cezanne’s painting in 1907 showed him how an object
could be merged with things and spaces around it by breaking
the outlines into fragments. He then inverted modeling so that
these angular planes break apart from each other rather than
form a continuous rounded shape. The faces of the two women
on the right are inspired by African masks, which were popular
collectors’ items in Paris at this time. Traditional tribal art offered
Picasso a way of thinking about the patterns and signs within a
face without copying visual appearance.
In the next few years, Picasso and his friend, Georges Braque, would continue to develop these ideas in
analytic cubism. Works like Picasso’s Portrait of Henry-David Kahnweiler dissolve the distinction between
background and foreground, between person and object. Color is reduced to the point of being
monochromatic, modeling creates disjointed planes, and elements that help us recognize objects (like
Kahnweiler’s crossed hands) float free of the things they represent.
Picasso, Portrait of Kahnweiler,
1910 (Analytic Cubism)
Picasso, Glass and Bottle of Suze,
1912 (collage)
Picasso, The Three Musicians, 1921 (Synthetic Cubism)
The name analytic cubism suggests the process of analyzing or breaking apart our experience of the world
into its component parts. The succeeding phase of cubism is called synthetic cubism because in it objects
are reconstructed from simple shapes and flat colors. The ideas behind synthetic cubism began to take
shape in a series of collages that Picasso constructed beginning in 1912. In the Glass and Bottle of Suze,
Picasso glued down pieces of wallpaper and newsprint, which he then painted over to construct the still life
composition. The label with the word SUZE on it floats above the bottle. The combination of elements in
this manner leads the viewer to ask several questions:
What is actually real and what is illusion in this piece?
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