Pablo Picasso : 1881-1973 by Anatoliĭ Podoksik

By Anatoliĭ Podoksik

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The indistinct and simple monochromatic blue corresponds to the composition’s elemental quality, the generalized plastic and linear character. 37 The Soler Family, 1903. Oil on canvas, 150 x 200 cm, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Liège. 38 While simplifying the form, Picasso gave the content greater complexity and depth, turning the initial subject into a timeless, universal event — the mournful meeting of two symbolic sisters in another world. Their emblematic opposition (the lofty and eternal versus the lowly and fatal) is expressed through the painting’s structure.

64 of the plastic arts, in which their formal language stands in the same relationship to the forms of the visible world as poetic language stands to everyday speech. 59 Locked up in his studio, working through the night as was his habit, Picasso stubbornly concentrated on learning anew, changing his taste, re-educating his personal feelings. There is a reason why nearly all the works of 1907 have the simplest classroom character: studies of nudes, half-lengths, heads, still lifes; there is also a reason why all of this “academic” work was produced without models, by imagination only.

The colours here are as coarse and poor as a hair shirt, but they are not prosaic; our mind’s eye sees through the bleary blue, the hoarse red, the pale yellow and divines their noble essence: azure, crimson, gold. The visible in the painting is an allegory that impresses the viewer with its own, symbolic and universal aspect: the green absinthe represents bitterness and sorrow; the wall mirror, that symbolic screen of the woman’s inner world, reflects vague blotches of colour — her thoughts; the woman herself, steeped by absinthe in numbness, hallucinations, and depression, sits in a hunched-up, twisted pose, reminding us of a Notre Dame gargoyle; she seems less a solitary drunkard in some forsaken Paris bar than the expression of the world’s evil and its alchemic attribute — the bitter green elixir shimmering at the bottom of the glass.

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