Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Mandolin

Woman with mandolin 1910

Oil on canvas

The work is in the cubist style, which was a movement that sought to reject the “traditional techniques of perspective, modelling and foreshortening.” Instead emphasizing the “two-dimensionality of the canvas.”

This was achieved by abstracting the forms and shapes of the subject; cubist artists “reduced and fractured objects into geometric forms, and then realigned these within a shallow, relief like space.” Personally I have always felt that cubist work was actually successful in representing 3-dimensional spaces by crafting such series of angled facets, which tricks the viewer into a new sense of depth and space. As if the artist were trying to represent all the different sides of the subject at once.

In some pieces this can create a great sense of movement, of the shift and flux that happens to all things at all times, the jumble of forms creates rhythm and dynamism. I think this is noticeable in the shoulders of the woman. However the color palate of this piece is decidedly muted, consisting entirely of drab browns and ochre’s which to me suggests the movement of form is the focus. An intentional attempt to literally move the viewer around the shapes.

One of my favourite elements of Picasso’s work is his how he draws attention to specific parts of his painting, particularly in his studies of musicians, I think the hands and instruments are often more boldly, sharply, and almost lovingly defined. The mandolin is darker, rounder, standing out starkly against the woman’s body, and her hands are clear and interesting, I like how the thumb on her right hand is tucked behind her palm and her fingers bent inwards to pluck. Also the artist draws attention to this area of his work by balancing the composition of the whole piece; the background and upper section of the woman are busier and more chaotic, whilst the lower right is quieter.

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