Picasso’s Dancer and Picador (1960)

This ink drawing by Picasso is united by its apparent subject, a seated picador, the horseman who pierces a bull's flank with his lance, sits watching a Spanish dancer. But even though they seem united in one scene there is a clear division between the light area of the picador and the dark half of the dancer. Besides, why should a fully-dressed picador be watching a dancer? The unlikeliness of the scene, the two sides united only by Spanish-ness, suggests that they are in fact on two different levels of reality. The picador on the light side claps his hands to produce the image of the serpentine dancer in darkness.

See conclusion below 


Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, Dancer and Picador (June 7th 1960) Ink and wash on paper

Click image to enlarge.

The undulating neck and narrow head of the dancer strongly suggests that she is a metamorphosis of a snake or dragon in a dark cave. The artist/picador then uses his hands to cast order out of chaos in the course of which the snake/dragon turns into a dancer. Picasso as picador is using his hands like a snake-charmer. Picasso knew, of course, that Manet's toreadors and bull-fighters were on the underlying level "artists" painting their scenes, especially the iconic Mlle V in the Costume of an Espada (1862). He also would have known that Manet and other artists before him were inspired by one particular painting, to be discussed later this year, in which a saint kills a dragon to create order from chaos. The dragon in this scenario symbolizes the artist's mind full of wisdom and forms, mixing and matching in chaos. The saint, the logical half of the same mind, kills the dragon to impose order. At the moment of death the image is completed. This drawing is a part-metamorphosis of that idea.


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