Man with a Violin

Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, Spanish, 1881 - 1973

Geography:
Made in France, Europe

Date:
1911-1912

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
39 3/8 x 28 13/16 inches (100 x 73.2 cm)

Copyright:
© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1950-134-168

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Label:
A tall, pyramidal form at the center of this painting evokes a human presence, with clues suggesting hair, a moustache, and ears. Two F-shaped sound holes are the only signs of a violin, and scroll-like shapes at the bottom left suggest the arm of a chair. The painting dates from the spring or summer of 1912, a period in the evolution of Cubism often described as hermetic because the subjects appear to be sealed off from recognizable reality.

Additional information:
  • PublicationMasterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art

    Writing about Picasso, the painter and writer Jean Metzinger remarked: "Whether it be a face or a fruit he is painting, the total image radiates in time; the picture is no longer a dead portion of space."1 Man with a Violin, a potent illustration of this assessment, is a prime example of Analytic Cubism, the approach developed by Picasso and Georges Braque beginning in 1909. Instead of creating a likeness of the figure through the use of linear perspective and three-dimensional modeling, Picasso depicted the gentleman not as he would be seen at a given moment, but as he would appear at various times from different positions in space (behind, in front, and to the side). Man with a Violin cannot, then, be compared to the outward appearance of anything already known or seen, but instead creates a reality according to its own cumulative logic of seeing. While it is difficult to determine the painting's subject at first glance, Picasso left several clues to assist us: an ear, a moustache, lips holding a white cylinder (perhaps a cigarette?), and the F-shaped sound holes of a violin. Cubist paintings such as this would influence artists working in an abstract manner, but Picasso's anthropomorphic hints reveal that he was more interested in reinventing representation than in pursuing pure abstraction. Melissa Kerr, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 116.

    Note:
    1) Jean Metzinger, "Note on Painting," as translated in Art in Theory, 1900-1900: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Woods (Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1993), p. 178.
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Between 1907 and 1914 Picasso's art evolved as if it were a secret language being invented in private conversation with his close collaborator Georges Braque. Man with a Violin reflects the state of their nearly day-to-day interchange in 1912, a time when their styles became almost indistinguishable, based on a shared vocabulary of gridlike scaffolding, overlapping planes, and a palette of ocher, white, and gray. As Braque and Picasso gauged how their paintings evolved, and sometimes even jockeyed competitively to innovate new methods, the two never veered from the rigorously disciplined but intuitive approach that led them to create such focused series of works.

    Man with a Violin dates from the spring or summer of 1912, a period in the evolution of Cubism often described as hermetic, as the connection between what appears in Braque's and Picasso's paintings and objects recognizable in nature is almost completely severed. This picture cannot be compared to the outward appearance of anything already known or seen, but instead creates a reality according to its own logic of seeing and reading. Immediately eye-catching and absorbing, its interwoven, shimmering facets and semitransparent planes juxtapose a skeletal, linear structure and transform the receding grid of perspectival space into a flat pattern. A monumental pyramidal form evokes a human presence, while other clues suggest strands of hair, a moustache, and ears. Two F-shaped sound holes are the only signs of a violin, and scroll-like shapes at the bottom left suggest the arm of a chair. Paintings such as Man with a Violin paved the way for much abstract art to come, but Picasso's persistent inclusion of abbreviated signs for human physiognomy and objects shows what all his subsequent work confirms: he was more interested in dissecting and reinventing representation than in pursuing pure abstraction. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 26.