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3. The paintings
In the light of the above discussion, the paintings that Picasso created with Marie-Therese Walter as his model during the period of their relationship must be understood and analysed against the background of two issues. The first, which has been briefly referred to, is the influence that relationships with women in Picasso's life had on his paintings. The second is that influence of other artistic styles and ideas.
Picasso could not escape the influence of the Surrealistic movement which emphasized the play of imagination and the distortion of the real. Another influence was the " rivalry" with Matisse. During the 1930's there was a change in Picasso's style form his neoclassical period. As referred to previously, the painting The Three Dancers was indicative of this change in mood and style. Alfred Barr calls this painting"... 'a turning point in Picasso's art almost as radical as the proto-cubist Demoiselles d'Avignon'. Following this he became concerned with the mythological image of the Minotaur and images of the Dying Horse and the Weeping Woman. The period culminated in his most famous work, Guernica..." (Chilvers 476)
Surrealism is also an important element in understanding the paintings of this period. Picasso uses surrealist ideas and methods and applied them to his own unique style. In order to understand the paintings one has to view the shift in tone and style in Picasso's works toward the influence of surrealism. This can be seen for example in the 1933 painting entitled "An Anatomy." The painting depicts a series of drawings which are a combination of organic and non-organic components.
The above aspects can be applied to a large extent to the paintings of Marie-Therese Walter during this period. In the 1932 portrait entitled "Woman with a Flower" surrealistic elements can be seen in the distortion of features and the sense of the importance of the imagination over representation in this painting.
Picasso wrote at the time, "I keep doing my best not to lose sight of nature. I want to aim at similarity, a profound similarity which is more real than reality, thus becoming surrealist."
The portraits inspired by Marie-Therese Walter were created in very bright and vivid colors, which were possibly related to the use of color typical of Matisse. However despite the brightness and clarity of the portraits like "Woman with a Flower," Picasso was to state that this period of life was one of the most difficult and depressing. This was the period when Marie-Therese Walter became pregnant and Olga left him.
The painting "Woman with a Flower" can be interpreted as having various levels of meaning. On the one level there is the obvious comparison of a women and flowers. However, on another level the painting is a cohesive combination of ambiguities and contrasts. There is also a distinct organic and earthy feel to the forms - which also relates to the archetypal and symbolic imagery in this period referred to in the introduction.
However this is not in any sense a representational painting and the symbolic elements predominate. The sense of ambiguity in intention can also be seen in the face that seems to scowl. This aspect could be interpreted as a reflection of the inner turmoil and ambiguity that the Picasso was feeling at the time.
The surrealistic aspects are taken further in the view of the women's head in the shape of bean. The stem becomes the woman's hand which further expands on the organic vision in the work.
In the painting human elements correspond with organic plant and flower elements.
As one analyses the painting further the initial sense of ambiguity is replaced by a sense of the correspondences and connections between the vegetative and human world. Another aspect that should be noted is the bright and almost brash use of color. This aspect relates to the Fauvist view of color and Matisse on one level and on another level to the expression of love and passion that Picasso was probably experiencing for his new love.
The painting entitled "Interior with girl drawing" which was completed in 1935 was also a portrait of Marie-Therese Walter, yet it has the inclusion of another woman in the background. This was obviously relevant to the situation of Picasso's life at the time and his conflict with Olga. There is another aspect of his personal life which may also explain the background figure. The background may also refer to Dora Maar, as it was during 1935 that he had fallen in love with her.
Another important aspect that should be noted about the painting is that while Picasso had included frontal and profile views in his portraits as well as their superimposition in previous works, he introduced a further stylistic innovation in this work. In "Interior with girl drawing" the figure in the foreground presents a profile view but both eyes are seen. Therefore the frontal view is anticipated or suggested in the profile.
Another aspect that makes this painting so suggestive of the personal relationships in the artist's life is the use of angles and rectangles. There is a "sharpness" in the structure of the painting which can be seen to suggest a loss of comfort and a certain harshness. This may be representative of the conflict that Picasso was experiencing at the time and the loss of his love and desire for Marie-Therese Walter.
In contrast, the figure in the background is rounded and circular in form rather then rectangular. Again this refers to the erotic female and the archetypal woman and might also therefore allude to his new love, Dora Maar. In other words, on a more abstract level there is a contrast between sharp and irregular lines and objects and rounded sensuality in the background, which can be interpreted as a reflection of Picasso's state of mind at that time.
A painting which is less obtuse and relatively easy to interpret is the 1932 panting "Nude Woman in a Red Armchair. This is also a portrait of Marie-Therese Walter, but created at the height of Picasso's love for her. The painting is overtly sensual and sexual. Once again the rounded shapes and forms dominate and refer to the archetypal female figure. The painting in general is voluptuously simple to understand and depicts naked women with a beaded necklace.
The painting is made up of and created with numerous free curves which allude to the curved and youthful appearance of Marie-Therese Walter.
A number of aspects can be noted about this painting. First the color, which is a combination of soft pastel greens and violets against blacks and. These all suggest the sensuous aspect of the female. The red chair in itself projects and emphasizes the figure in the foreground and increases the sense of sensuality and beauty. The shape of the chair seems to embrace the nude figure and adds to the erotic tone of the painting.
The work that Picasso created during the years under discussion bears a close realtionhsip to his personal life. As this paper has discussed, his love life and the meeting with Walter can be seen to have had an important influence not only on the subject matter of his paintings but also on the style of his work. However, as was pointed out in the introduction, one cannot describe any period of a major artist's life with pinpoint accuracy and other factors also have to be borne in mind in order to understand the works adequately.
During these years Picasso was also influenced by the surrealistic mode of thought and art and this can be seen in his portraits of Walter. Furthermore, his artistic relationship with Matisse can also be seen to have had an important influence. What should be borne in mind in any assessment to Picasso's work is that in the final analysis it is the artwork that supersedes the personal and that any painting is a complex and intricate combination of a number of issues which are both personal and artistic in origin.
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