Posts Tagged ‘ararchy’

Without preliminary sketches, Karen produced this exquisite line drawing of a face. She drew without a model or an image. It’s her invention, probably a self-portrait after her disappointment with the earlier drawing project. (See the still life set up in the previous post.)

Picasso comes to mind.

I don’t know if Karen was paying homage to Picasso.  But I’ll venture a guess about her immediate source of inspiration: the red and blue paper mask-face that an after-schooler had left in our classroom.

What’s the connection to Picasso?

Picasso spent his teen age years, in the 1890’s, in Barcelona.  He was precocious as an artist and as a thinker.  The friends he hung out with (in a café called Els Quatre Gats)  were artists and writers, ten and fifteen years older than he.  Barcelona in that decade was a hotbed of anarchy.  Artists were outraged at the social injustice, poverty and bourgeois complacency they saw in the city. Central to anarchist beliefs was the faith in the power of art to alter the ways in which people thought, to change the consciousness of the age and thus to hasten the social revolution.

When Picasso moved to Paris in 1904, his friends were again artists and poets who debated the function of art in an urgently needed social and aesthetic revolution.

In Paris at the time, African and Oceanic  art could be bought on the cheap at flea markets.  Artists who worked in the modern vein all owned such masks and sculptures, including Picasso.  When Picasso visited the Ethological Museum (called the Trocadero at that time), he was smitten by the rawness of what was then called “primitive art.”  It was “against everything,” he said. Tribal artifacts, including the art of American Indians,  represented the antithesis of overly refined 19th century European art. Since this refined art documented the corruption and decadence of the society he rejected, he saw in “primitive” art a potential for total rebellion and therefore a hope of stirring the consciousness of his contemporaries.  The shock might wake them out of their comfortable bourgeois complacency and make them consider new social, political ideas and a new aesthetic.

Picasso famously drew the profile in the front view of a face, as for example in his Girl before a Mirror, 1932. (Detail shown here.) At right, a Kwakiutl mask from British Columbia.

Art students and art lovers can hardly get around Picasso.  There he is, the colossus of the 20th century.  It’s hard not to be influenced by some aspect of his many styles of working during his very long life.  Who can say what inspired Karen to make this fine drawing?  But there you are, I see Picasso in it.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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