Self-portrait. Paris Spring 1907 Oil on Canvas by Picasso


Exploring his intervention in art and design The power of expression has never failed to educate, inspire and motivate; if Pablo Picasso had not wondered “Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?” would we have realised that the then simple medium of art could carry such depth  and dimension. From conventional painter to cubist genius, Pablo Picasso has changed the way in which we experience art, changed our perceptions of what ought to be depicted by art and created a third dimension to the seemingly two dimensional canvas. His pioneering movement and expressions in cubism have not only influenced other creative fields but has played a role in defining a genre of both art and architecture.

How does one paint what is on, inside and behind a face? It was this form of thinking that led to the art of abstract representation, where the classical framework of being able to depict in art exactly what we perceive was quickly set aside to make room for the artist’s representation of the truth. Cubism, however, was an accurate representation of what is visually perceivable, with an added third dimension.

In “girl with a mandolin”, the woman in this rectangular canvas protrudes in an almost sculptural reality as the depth of her shoulders and the body formation of the mandolin seem to bring this abstraction to border reality.  With cubism Picasso removed the detail of the real life object, which seemed unnecessary to him and gave prominence to the raw lines of the object. It was his belief that the painting should showcase the object from the many angles in which it can be seen in real life, in that one instance on the canvas. Although it seems at first glance that the woman and the mandolin seem to be completely deconstructed, it is an example of how one can view this lady with a mandolin from several vantage points. The birth of sharp and prominent perspective lines in his portraits stemmed from this belief, crystallising the cubist concept as a genus of art.

Cubism was; from this point on considered as one of the most momentous breakthroughs within the creative arena. Picasso and his artist partner Georges Braque developed cubism to such a level that their later paintings took this concept to an extreme; the paintings became greatly fragmented, where parts of the object being painted seemed at first glance to be shattered amidst geometrical fragments. However, upon closer examination, it is clear that Picasso was trying to embody in his work the idea of the painting surrounding the spectator rather than the other way around.

With the rapid advancement of the industrial age, Picasso and cubism seemed to have advanced almost in parallel. It became apparent that cubism was breaking away from the restricted canvas into the lives and culture of the people. Between the 19th and 20th Century, cubism became the core concept behind industrial living greatly influencing the architecture of the time and beyond. Traditional architectural building forms and detailing take precedents from the natural lines; these are nothing short of sculptural representations and modernist buildings seemed to thrive off geometric lines. It was however cubism, which brought these geometric lines into a distorted dimension enabling both depth and perspective alteration to architectural design. Cubism stripped the so-called unnecessary detail off in order to enable the precision of the clean lines to shine through; this sort of design was widely known as Art Deco design.

Representation, fragmentation and purposefully obvious perspective lines began to define the essence of what cubism was. In this sense we see that from Art Deco to Modernism and in today’s radically growing deconstructive era that cubism was the seed of this rapidly growing genre in architecture.

Deconstructivists themselves use abstract representation of reality in their buildings to add a new dimension to design. Here the architects representation of the function takes on a symbolic representation rather than an obvious one.

Picasso’s creative expressions did not end with cubism, while he switched between cubist representations and real life depictions, he began painting portraits of individuals, which depicted the quality of their lives rather than the outward appearance taking the saying “beauty is only skin deep” further in his paintings. In the seated woman (Marie Therese Walter) the image of the person however distorted showcases clearly a content colourful woman in contrast to the weeping woman where anguish seems to embody the painting rather than her features. In both these painting the contrast in the use of colour – more sober happy light colours depict the contentment of the seated woman and the dark colours outlined heavily in black showcase the apparent distress of the weeping woman.

Picasso showed the modern world a new avenue in the way we depict the truth. His representations could be considered to showcase the reality of the objects rather than what is outwardly apparent. He analysed the object he was painting and configured the different ways to bring the truth forward, and in doing so created breakthroughs in the creative arena of art and design.