One hundred and seventy one

The Picador

1900 by Pablo Picasso
Guggenheim, New York

Picasso made his first trip to Paris in 1900, travelling from Madrid where he studied art, and it’s probable that this was drawn before he ever left Spain. At just 19, it is interesting to look at such early work where notorious style has not become the immediate object of our gaze. Instead we have a young man exploring the world visually, taking snapshots of what he sees through his ability to conjure on paper; here spontaneously, as he works in pastel. The medium is manipulated for its ease of application, gliding in swathes to form the side of the bullring, and in scribbling lines that quickly summon person or animal. Outline is seldom relied on, contrasting to the later abstract portraits we know so well, that rely on their bold ability to first draw shape and then colour in. Here colour articulates just as strongly, strokes of pastel personified, as they materialise into little images of the world. In this way the figures are full of movement, mid-action, frozen it seems only for us as the world continues to spin around them. The background is a blur, a haze of heat and intense colour, summoning of both atmosphere and place, in a whirlwind of vision that seems on the move itself. It’s as if the panning of the scene will only continue, spinning around to present us with a complete vision of the bullring. There is nothing brutal about this image, despite its subject matter, and though it has vibrance, it is relatively quiet: an intimate observation of place and activity, inherently Spanish.

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Filed under Twentieth-Century

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