Picasso’s Rocking Chairs (1956)

In 1956 Picasso started sketches for a painting called Nude in a Rocking Chair. The initial studies, while anthropomorphic in nature, might not convince everyone that the chairs are variations on his own face. On a subsequent sheet, though....

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, Chair Sketches (1956)

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..........the chair in the lower left corner turns undeniably anthropomorphic with eyes, a broad nose like Picasso's and a mouth. And it's the chair on the sheet that he worked on most.

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Picasso, Chair Sketches (1956)

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In the finished painting the handles and rockers of the chair have become eyes, Picasso's "eyes". No art scholar though is likely to have recognized them, in either the sketches or the painting. Yet, above Picasso's "eyes" and in his mind sits the nude like a modern-day Virgin. This is Picasso's imaginative description of what his own mind looks like conceiving the image in front of us. It is also why - punning on conception - a phallic palm tree in the window/painting spurts its leaves.

Circular or oval shapes at the bottom of a page often indicate - and not just in Picasso's work - the presence of the artist's eyes with the image of his own conception above them.

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Picasso, Nude in a Rocking Chair (1956)

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In this drawing of a priest on a bicycle the wheels are Picasso's "eyes" again, important meaning that would be missed without the prior examples. The flying cloak even suggests an eyebrow. Thus, just as many artists, especially in the Renaissance, depicted divinity in their mind, so Picasso - tongue-in-cheek - suggests a priest is in his. 

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Picasso, Priest on a Bicycle (1952)

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An early sketch from 1906 (far left) gives us another variation. The space formed by the dancers' arms and the cloth they are waving forms Picasso's "eyes" while the dancers' heads are his pupils. (See diagram.) By making their heads his "pupils" Picasso tells us that vision and visual art involve thought and that pictures - to use a variation on his visual illusion - are not empty-headed.

There are many other examples like this in the history of art although, it would seem, few have ever been noticed. We will publish some more but keep your own eyes out for others in art books or museums. You'll find them everywhere.

 

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Picasso, The Dance - Study for The Blue Vase (1906)

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Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 20 Jan 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.