Picasso’s In the Sculptor’s Studio (1963)

Picasso's late etchings and drawings seem so quickly created that they are almost scribbles. Don't be fooled. After a lifetime of creating images Picasso could draw figures in almost any pose without a model and, as importantly, could draw them "double", so to speak, in that one feature can be read as two. Let's take a closer look at the hand of the sculptor.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, In the Sculptor's Studio, 31.10.63 (1963) Etching

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The empty space between the sculptor's thumb and forefinger helps make the hand look real, as a real hand pinching some clay. However, the inner contour also resembles an eyebrow and eye thereby combining in one motif the artist's two main personal attributes, his hand and eye. In art, one does not work without the other which is why his unification of the two in one motif is so brilliantly clever.  

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Picasso, In the Sculptor's Studio, 31.10.63 , detail

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There are at least two more motifs in this print which work the same way. Superficially they resemble one feature of the human figure but then, in an illusion, another. And not just any feature, a feature with meaning. Take a closer look at the image yourself to see if you can find them. When you are ready...

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, In the Sculptor's Studio, 31.10.63 (1963) Etching

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In a magical display of draughtmanship Picasso is able to make the model's raised arm resemble a breast as well, with her elbow as its nipple. The ordinary viewer takes the distortion in the arm to be a feature of Picasso's quasi-abstract style when, in fact, he is playing with your perception. That is not all. The other arm is an uncircumcised phallus, pointing upwards, with the woman's breast on the right as its testicle. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, In the Sculptor's Studio, 31.10.63 , detail

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In case you could not see them in the prior illustration, a diagram is at top showing the breast in brown and the phallus and testicle in green. The two arms together convey the idea that the artist's mind is androgynous as the model must be too if every painter paints himself. Despite the sense that this etching has been drawn quickly without necessarily a great deal of thought, there is still much more to explain. However, three new visual illusions is enough for one entry. I doubt that Picasso experts have seen any of them.

And, although Picasso's method and subject matter may sound very modern, Dürer did something similar in the sixteenth century in an engraving that we will feature shortly.

Captions for image(s) above:

Top: Diagram of In the Sculptor's Studio, 31.10.63 , detail
Bottom: Detail of In the Sculptor's Studio, 31.10.63

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 16 Nov 2011. © 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.