Thursday, August 22, 2013

Picasso is so overrated!

How easily to impress are we, when art is involved?

Recently, a study shown that, at classical music competitions, judges seem to evaluate more based on the package in which music is delivered, rather than the music itself (found this at John Baez's blog). Prior to that, it was revealed that judges of abstract art don't guess so well which paintings were made by human artists, and which by monkeys. Wine tasters prefer French wines over Californian, unless the tasting is blind.

So, I finally got courage to say something I want to say for years, but I was afraid to be accused of art blasphemy. I think Picasso is so overrated! In my opinion, just in one painting, Family of Saltimbanques, “the masterpiece of Picasso’s Rose Period”, he severely broke several laws of perspective, physics, and even saltimbanques’s bones (before his cubist period). Below, I annotated a picture from Wikipedia:



The leftmost clown seems to have a problem with his shoulder, or his left humerus is way too long. The young boy carries a barrel, by holding it with a hand which is in front, from its bottom, which is behind. Probably he is using the force, like the lady in the right, who makes her hat levitating, while she probably trains her left hand for a contortion number. And like the overweight red clown, who holds a bag which doesn't hang under the point where it's held, even though he obviously doesn't have the right leg! Although I am by no means an expert, I think that these are elementary mistakes.

Picasso's paintings, together with van Gogh's, are the most expensive paintings in the world.

11 comments:

Unknown said...

Thank you for your courage. Picasso and many other famous big name artists are like the parable of the emperors new suit. People are afraid to admit that much of these famous artists work is crap just like the emperors subjects were afraid of pointing out that he was naked. In both cases people are afraid to speak the truth lest they be thought stupid. I guarantee you that if people, including art professionals saw many of these works and were told they were done by students would judge them much more harshly. They are famous for being famous. Judged on their own merits they are mediocre at best. The painting you talk about is just not very pretty along with the faults you point out.

Cristi Stoica said...

Thanks, Unknown. I can't imagine how different the world would be, if we would be able to see all kings who don't have clothes, in all the domains.

Anonymous said...

You don't really know what you're talking about. Obviously Picasso knew what he was doing and it's troubling that you don't know the artist's history better, or you would have known that. First, before we get into that. consider that Ingres's Odalisque, an artist of unmatched technical ability, distorted her back, given her extra vertebrae. Next, consider the figures of TITIAN, for god's sake--considered by some to be THE GREATEST painter to ever live, worshiped by Velazquez and Rembrandt. They are almost always distorted. Consider the figures of El Greco, Courbet, the Mannerists, etc. Are you such a novice at art history that you don't realize that artists from every age distort their figures for pictorial effects? Picasso knew anatomy as well as Raphael by the time he was in his teens. Just look at his early Realist art--his sketches from the local museums, the art school figure studies, etc. It's undeniable. He knew what he was doing. The Rose Period, of which this particular painting belongs, is on the cusp of his cubist period, which occurred with Les Demoiselles d'Avignon shortly after this piece. Please study up before making stupid blog posts, or else try not to let things fly over your head so often.

Cristi Stoica said...

Anonymous,
If you could explain the artistic effects obtained by applying each of the "techniques" I called mistakes in this painting, that would be great. Why waste this opportunity to educate the readers? For the moment, the feeling induced by these distortions was definitely not what Picasso intended, so I am very curious if you can open my eyes :)

Anonymous said...

Of course I can. Let's walk through some of the so-called "mistakes," and try to understand why Picasso, a man who, as a child, could draw like Raphael, would decide to distort his figures. First, we must consider that the reasons for the composition are partly compositional and partly symbolic.

First, the compositional. Take, for example, the so-called "mistake" of the large, red, harlequin's missing leg (#3). Of course, if the leg were there, it would have created a confusing tangent of legs, with both the feet of the tall, brooding performer, the fat harlequin and the small girl. This octopus-like mess of limbs would have stolen a lot of the compositional emphasis of the picture, which is why we can imagine why Picasso chose to remove it. But what’s funny is that you believe the limb was never there. These figures were moved around and redrawn many times before this final version. We know because of x-rays done on the painting during its restoration. I believe there was a dog, another pitcher of water, in addition to the figures taking on very different poses (including the leg of the fat harlequin).

Another example among the so-called “mistakes” you pointed out is the dislocation of the arm of the tallest male harlequin (#1). I am an artist, so I can understand why he did this. Let us remember that compositional cues and lines lead the eye through the picture. Let’s start with the barrel. It’s a strong, sloped line set against the empty abyss of the sky. It’s where the eye is intended to start. Following it down and it exactly meets the shoulder of the fat red harlequin. There we follow it almost EXACTLY to the “dislocated” arm. The arm then swings our gaze to the shoulders of the girl. (Again, notice that the dislocated arm is perfectly aligned with the shoulder of the fat red harlequin.) Had the arm been where it was naturally supposed to be, your eye would have hit the little girl’s head, instead of gaining momentum with the sloped line of her shoulder. (Also, notice the emphasis created by the fat harlequin’s hand, repeating the hand of the thinner one.) The result is a sling shot effect, shooting the viewer’s eye towards the female figure towards the lower right hand corner. (Corners in traditional square frames carry much of the weight of the composition). Her red dress acts like a giant “bull’s eye, balancing the stronger red of the fat harlequin on the other side of the picture (think scales). Without her red dress (which is, along with black and white are the most powerful colors in the spectrum) would make the fat red harlequin the strongest point of focus, creating unbalance in the two halves of the picture. (The picture is meant to be divided into two parts, to emphasize the separation of the woman from the harlequin family).

Anonymous said...

Symbolically, you would need to understand the inspiration for the picture in the first place, and where Picasso’s art proceeded, then you could better understand the meaning of the distortions. On the one hand, the picture is meant to represent the artist and his artist friends. They were considered outcasts among other, more academic, artists, and on a greater scale of society at large. He was comparing avant guard artists, who he identified with and who were perceived as social outcasts, to the lower class of traveling performers. Picasso arranges them in a very awkward manner, set against a primordial, desolate landscape to emphasis a collage-like existence, which explains a lot of your perceived “problems” with the picture. This collage-like assembly emphasizes mental isolation, though they are supposed to be grouped together. Also, let’s not forget the subjects, which are circus people, who frequently distort their own bodies for entertainment. Picasso considered artists like entertainers, and distorting and flattening the figure (which had been occurring since Impressionism, especially Cezanne ((who Picasso called “the father of use all”)) was the “performance,” or movement, most in fashion among cutting edge artists at the time.

On another level, the picture represents a personal event that occurred in Picasso’s life. To sum it up, the tallest harlequin is Picasso himself, the woman on the lower right-hand side is his wife at the time, Olivier, and the little girl was the briefly adopted child of the couple. She was eventually sent back to the orphanage for largely unknown reasons. Many believe this is because Olivier did not want the child, thus we see her separating from the rest of the group, in addition to the outreaching hand of the Picasso harlequin. She turns away, almost completely separated from the rest of the pack, as if Picasso is trying to express his wife’s self-absorption.

In the woman’s “unnatural hand position” I cannot fully claim to know the mind of Picasso, and why he decided to distort it the way that he did, but I can make speculations based on his work to come. First, only a fool would think this distortion was unintentional. For proof, look at the literally hundreds of hands Picasso drew, to absolute precision, in his youth. But that’s obvious. The woman touches her hair with her left hand, showing a sign of vanity (which is a common reoccurring theme is Picasso’s later work also), perhaps its deformity expresses the corrupted inner life of its subject. The right hand and the arm, however, form a niche as if for the child. Thus the woman reveals two natures. We can further speculate that Picasso may have also intended the empty niche to indicate the absent child, and the vain gesture of the other hand to present the reason for the abandonment.

Finally, the most apparent reason for the distortion of the hand, and indeed all of the distortions found within the picture, as indicators of his oncoming Cubist period, which directly proceeded his Rose period. Many notable critics have interpreted the crinkled position of her limb as symbolic of the disintegration of the feminine ideal, which was to become the main theme of his work for the rest of his career. As I said before, all you need to do is look to the following groundbreaking work, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.

Cristi Stoica said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Now there is more balance on this page. Maybe you can help with this too: http://www.unitaryflow.com/2013/09/picassos-revenge.html

I am curious if somebody else but you interpreted these "mistakes", and if they did the same way you did. Or if Picasso commented on them, as he did with many of his works in his voice records. I guess that the extra vertebrae of Ingres's Odalisque and other of your examples are mentioned in the literature, but I have the feeling that what you said here is new.

From my point of view, when it comes to interpretation of symbols, including mistakes, there are endless possibilities which are not necessarily consistent with one another. Some may interpret them as Freudian slips for instance. My interpretation is still that of technical mistakes.

About the open interpretation. Back in my college years I loved to go to a terrace in Bucharest, where artists and students loved to come. Once somebody sketched something on a piece of paper. I made a joke, trying to read that girls personality from her drawing. She was impressed. So others drew stuff and asked me to read their personality from the drawings. For some reason, they were enthusiastic, and strangers started to ask me the same. They would buy me drinks or even offer me money, although I never asked. It was just for fun, and I knew I was improvising, so I thought I should end this before I would start to believe in it myself. I am pretty sure that even if I say that it was only impro, some would think that I could see their souls.

Another story. I had a friend. HAD. He was good at drawing, and he sent me some of his works, and I really loved them. He also used to send me a lot of emails with conspiracy theories, asked me to comment, and was disappointed that I didn't buy them. He saw freemasonic symbols in everything. So I told him that you can find masonic symbols in anything, if you really want. He answered "yes, because they are there". So I pointed out some details of his own drawings that can be interpreted as such symbols, on the same pattern he used. What better way to prove him, than to use his own work, of which he was sure it was not masonic? Although I emphasized that I love his drawings and actually don't think he would put at purpose such symbols, he was offended.

Also back in my college years, I had friends who followed various gurus. Some said their guru can heal any disease, even at distance. So I asked them "then why is obese and wears glasses?". They said "it is to test our faith!". Others invited me to a guru to meditate together. They said such an enlightened person appears at two thousand years, so I should come. I fell asleep during the meditation. They told me that it is because some of my chakras are blocked. Next time, the guru fell asleep during the meditation. I asked them "are his chakras blocked too?". They said "it is to test us". Another guru is a heavy smoker. I asked them why does he do this, and their answer was "he is so pure, that he, together with his body would immediately leave this material world. So he smokes to stay here with us, to save all of us". In all cases, they told me more or less that I can't see the perfection of their gurus because of my ignorance or because I project my own sins.

My point is that in art, much as in politics, religion, love, things are so open to interpretation, that you can basically argue for or against any position. So maybe Picasso's work is perfect and every detail had a definite role, or maybe is not, but people love to see there what they want, even if it is not there, especially if others can't see the same. I'll leave this case open :)

Thanks for your contribution!

Adrian G said...

The first time I read Anonymous's comments I thought he was serious and was preparing to post a long reply. Now I realize that he's just a troll.

With regards,
Your art school graduate.

Spider Rico said...

I'm a professional classically trained painter and I have an MFA in Art History. Never believe the nonsense about Picasso. He was NEVER as good as a child as Raphael, or Titian, or Rembrandt. He had talent and potential, but in no way mastered deep,hard, classical techniques to garnish superior skill in painting. Take Picasso's Guernica and compare it to Goya's The Third Of May 1908. Although both paintings are technically perhaps weaker than a Rembrandt, or a Titian, both paintings attempt to display the anguish and atrocities of war. It is a fact the Goya painting, is the far superior painting in relaying it's message. There's an old saying, the more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation. Like a glorious Sunset, great art never needs explanation.

Mohammed Amin said...

It is modern way of bolstering up your authority.... Claim that you have a degree in something.

Anonymous poster took you down quite brilliantly. Perhaps you should re-read your own reply in return to comprehend how unsure you sound.

Then Adrian G comes along simply to call him/her a troll and signed off with 'your art school graduate'.

But this 'spider rico' made me laguh the post. As this person gave her identity away whislt claiming to be something she isn't.

Rather it was Picasso who was the trained artist. And very highly trained artist too. Nonsensical posts such as this to atract attention just make you look silly.

Cristi Stoica said...

@MA Maybe I touched a sensitive side of yours, it was unintentional. Your emotional reaction seems to me to be caused by the fact that after reading this post you are unsure about Picasso and your own artistic sense, and you took it personally. I hope this is not the reason of your reaction, and after it passes, you can explain me how those things I see as "mistakes" actually contribute to the artistic message of the painting. Seriously, I really hope you can do this, because if you can make me see, then new horizons will open to me too :)