Ben Nicholson - Still Life (Violin) - 1932 - 30 x 24 in - oil and gesso on board
This painting is an excellent example on how artists allow recent influences to show in their development. Nicholson engaged with Cubism as a means to refine and personalize his awareness of this major development in contemporary painting, and used it to provide a solid foundation for his journey towards abstraction. Here, like Picasso and Braque, he uses the picture plane while simultaneously shifting our view to provide the sense of space.
The lines of the grid are both in front and behind the violin, conveying the feeling of space. I love the repeating rhythm of a series of vertical rectangles and how their dance gently contains my perusal. Can you feel how the white one is nearer and the others recede? You are meant to sense this dance rather than see the harmony they provide in the composition. The two verticals patterned with dots is open to interpretation ( I think of the act of playing the instrument and the rhythmic lines at the upper left is the sound of the music.)
The wonderful “shifting of space” in the body of the violin, the positioning of the F-holes and showing us the side view of the neck and scroll not only shows Nicholson’s understanding of cubism, it also shows us his restraint and refinement of this great consideration in twentieth century painting.
Pablo Picasso - Woman with a Fan - 1908 - 152 x 101 cm - oil on canvas
This is an excellent example of how Picasso permitted others to influence his development. We not only see the pushing of Cezanne’s spacial planes, we also see his collaboration with Matisse on this intriguing challenge. (see my Oct.19th post) and we also see their mutual reaching for the powerful stirrings we sense in primitive art which I will discuss in future postings.
Picasso uses a spatial shift by having the figure’s shoulders on different levels. By having the left shoulder lower and the front plane carry across her chest, provides the feeling of her right shoulder being on a different plane. Try to feel the space more than the depth,(blurring your vision may help). You may also feel the front of her dress come forward as well. The push and pull of the planes is superb. We sense her dress coming forward and then her left arm coming forth. Can you feel the shift?
Picasso’s superb use of integration of the figure, the chair and the background is fantastic. The entire composition avoids the static feel because spatial planes are closer to our reality than perspective. I hope you can sense this.
I find it interesting that the wonderful consideration of spatial planes requires reduction to succeed.
Pablo Picasso - Self Portrait - 1907 - 54 x 46 cm - 21 x 18 in - oil on canvas
This early painting by Picasso shows his developing interest in primitivism and cubism.
In this posting I will focus on how he conveys movement and space with parallels which Cezanne used so well.
First the black line defining the left of his face and the parallel line adjacent to his right nostril. Do you sense the space between the lines and how your eye movement is directed?
The other movement is the line on defining his forehead and the parallel line on his right cheek. Do you feel the space between them?
When you concentrate on the two directional shifts, can you feel the shift in space? They are powerful when you become aware of them. He is occupying space!
This is the seed of cubism, which is an unfortunate term for this fantastic way of conveying space.
We also see Picasso’s interest in primitivism, which, I think is a greatly misunderstood consideration. And this reaching for the prime will have a major impact on twentieth century art.
Pablo Picasso - Acrobat with a Ball - 1905 - 147 x 95 cm - 58 x 37 in - oil on canvas
This early painting by Picasso has excellent integration.
I will begin with the most obvious, the left side of the acrobat on the ball, and how she connects to the leg of the other acrobat. Your eye movement will continue from one to the other.
Now for a beautiful rhythmic integration which begins at the sitting figure’s head. The movement follows his spine, then your eye connects to the blanket. This is very impressive when you realize this also integrates (rhythmically) with the other figure’s left side.
Now to the line the white horse is standing on. I love this connection with the sitting figure’s right shoulder. I still remember how excited I was when I first noticed it many years ago.
The sight line continues to the left of the painting and now we see how the large figure is integrated with the background.
Other great examples are how the large figure’s right hand connects to the edge of the blanket, and how his left arm integrates with his shorts.
Other ways to integrate are with shapes, colour or values. Picasso used all three. The ball and the heads (shape, value and colour) integrate the warmth on the large figure’s left leg with the small red figure. And that wonderful red dot in the acrobat’s hair.