Picasso’s Man Looking in a Mirror (1969)

Picasso’s drawing of his printer, Pierre Crommelynck, known as Man Looking in a Mirror demonstrates how easy it is to be misled, especially if you do not know that every painter paints himself. In this drawing Pierre sits on the floor, hands on his knees, looking at himself in the “mirror.” That's what the title says, except it’s not a mirror. It’s clearly a painting because his hands and knees are missing. There is, however, a circular mirror on the wall between them, facing outwards, and a third framed piece of glass on the floor, a painting or possibly a mirror, its reflection divided diagonally between dark and light. 

That is practically all that a conventional viewer would ever notice in this image except, perhaps, for the strange way that the rear of Crommelynck’s head and neck are sliced off by the dark space behind. Why would Picasso do that? Most experts, certain that a man is looking in a mirror, would call it an inexplicable and meaningless element of Picasso's original style. Nothing, however, so evidently strange could be meaningless.

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Picasso, Man Looking in a Mirror (1969)

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What has never been noted - and the diagram at left demonstrates - is that the contour of Commelynck's back forms the profile of his own distinctively hooked nose with the circular mirror on the wall as his "eye". The scene of Picasso's alter ego looking at a painting of himself (resembling a mirror) takes place inside the alter ego's head or mind. Of course, as the mind of an alter ego, that means the artist's.

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Diagram of Picasso's Man Looking in a Mirror

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Picasso sliced off the back of his head not only to form the printer's nose but to leave a hint that the scene is not what it seems. Hidden faces like this appear all over art, almost always to indicate that the scene is inside the artist's mind, not outside. Several are explained in the theme Veiled Faces. Most have not been recognized before because experts are convinced that serious artists do not play with visual illusions. They are wrong which gives you, the ordinary art lover, lots of scope to see what they have not.

Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, Man Looking in a Mirror (1969)

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 14 Mar 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.