Picasso’s Untitled Plate 58 from Suite 156 (1971)

We have already seen how this untitled etching by Picasso at left relates to Manet's 1877 painting of the prostitute Nana. It confirms that Manet's prostitute represents Manet himself, as an artist. Here I just want to note Karen Kleinfelder's interpretation of Picasso's scene in which a clown seems to be painting a nude figure who, in turn, is using a mirror to apply make-up. She begins by noting that the nude's serpentine figure can be seen from all sides at once while the clown-painter's strict profile "seems comically one-dimensional in comparison."1 A visual inconsistency like this one tends to suggest that each figure is in its own reality: one real, one drawn.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, (Untitled), Plate 58 from Suite 156 (25.3.71)

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Kleinfelder continues: "In a gesture that parallels that of the painter's, the model raises a tiny brush to apply the finishing touches to her makeup, while gazing at her reflection in the hand mirror she holds before herself." In fact, the model looks at the artist's eye in the mirror, not her own. Nevertheless Kleinfelder is on a roll. "The mirroring process compounds itself as the model...becomes herself a mirror image of the artist, duplicating his creative act in a closed loop system of beholding, transforming, and reflecting."

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Detail of Picasso's Untitled Plate 58 from Suite 156

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Acknowledging their separate realities Kleinfelder notes that neither make eye contact and that, self-absorbed, "they remain at a distance bridged only through the painting act itself. The painter's palette, doubling as a substitute for the phallus, becomes an extension of the painter's arm, protruding forward in intimate proximity of the model. The artist's desire to both absorb and be absorbed in his own creation is metaphorically consummated in the conjoining of his palette and the model's pudendum..."

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Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, (Untitled), Plate 58 from Suite 156 (25.3.71)

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"Just as Picasso transforms the canvas into a bodily projection of the model, he translates the painting gesture into a bodily projection of the sexual act. The artist's desire for union with the model, for abrogating both distance and difference between himself and his creation, is articulated in this sexual metaphor..."

"It is as if", she concludes, "Picasso...has held up a mirror before himself."1

 

Captions for image(s) above:

Picasso, (Untitled), Plate 58 from Suite 156 (25.3.71)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

1. Karen Kleinfelder, The Artist, His Model, Her Image, His Gaze: Picasso's Pursuit of the Model (University of Chicago Press) 1993, pp. 94-5

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