Picasso’s Bull’s Head (1942)

Many of you will have seen Picasso's famous Bull’s Head made from the seat and handlebars of a bicycle before. What is important, though, is not just the neatness and concision with which he was able to convey a bull's head but the metaphorical, self-referential poetry it contains. 

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Picasso, Bull's Head (1942) Seat and handlebars of a bicycle.

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Picasso long identified with bulls, at least from the age of thirteen. EPPH has shown before how at that age he turned a sword stuck in a bull's back into a P for Pablo while making his signature on the same drawing rhyme visually with the bull and its shadow.1 This identification was deep and lasting. I suspect that the wild animal's sheer power combined with the grace and precision of the matador represented his own sub-conscious and conscious mind, respectively. The matador with a brush-like sword overpowers the changing shapes of the imagination and pins them to the canvas where they die. 

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Photograph of Picasso by the sea wearing a bull's mask

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He must also have intended, as he often did, that in constructing the head he was using a combination of craft and intellect. It is a long-running theme in art's history.2 In joining the handles to the “head” which is the seat of the eye, Picasso implies that eye and hand combine. Besides his life in art, like all human life, was a journey with each of us in the bicycle-seat. Courbet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Francis Bacon and others made similar visual statements and The Bull’s Head conveys that beautifully.3




 

Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, Bull's Head (1942) 

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Endnotes are at the bottom of the page

Notes:

1. See Picasso's The Last Bull (1892)

2. See examples on EPPH under the theme Hand & Eye. Currently, fourteen of them are by Picasso

3. Courbet, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Francis Bacon each portrayed themselves or another artist on a journey by foot. Courbet in Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet (1854), Van Gogh in The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888), Gauguin also as himself in Bonjour, Monsieur Gauguin (1889) and Bacon who in a thinly veiled self-representation did several variations on Van Gogh's Road to Tarascon in 1957. 

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 13 Sep 2015. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.