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Picasso ‘Ma Jolie’

Pablo Picasso’s Ma Jolie (c. 1911-1912) is a prime example of Picasso’s movement into cubism. The work’s title means my pretty girl based on a favorite French song Picasso was fond of during this period. The subject of the painting, which further interests the viewer is Picasso’s lover Marcelle Humbert or Eva (Picasso’s pet name for his lover). Once would not have guessed so much care and tenderness would have been depicted in an abstract painting with a rather bland and harsh color tone.

The painting is depicted in a rust color with highlights of tan and scattered dark and thick black lines which represent either a human hand or a guitar string (Lowry paragraph 1). The work also includes alphabet letters, numbers and musical symbols and the black thick lines which surround them are representations of reality. Since the painting is based on the refrain of a French song, the musical notes at the bottom of the canvas with the treble clef are easily recognizable.

What is interesting to note is that the viewer is able to decipher these images with ease but Eva playing the guitar is hardly distinguishable. The viewer becomes curious as to why the musical notes are seen clearly but the main focus of the painting, the woman Eva is split and chopped into different view points and pieces making it hard to see a woman’s figure. Other forms are depicted in Picasso’s work such as the guitar (we assume) that has a triangular form and strings strung across the shape. Below the representation of the strings is distinguishable four fingers.

Other parts of Eva’s body also become recognizable the longer the viewer gazes at the painting; an elbow is seen and what appears to be a ‘floating smile’ is deciphered among the planes and dramatic angles of the upper half of the painting. The painting may be said to exist in reality and in fantasy: the reality of the painting is seen with the real representation of things such as the smile, the fingers, the elbow, the guitar, but Picasso likes to interpret his world through his art in twofold, so the viewer has to see these objects through the semi-transparent planes that represent cubism.

Thus, Picasso both gives and takes away from the viewer’s vision of his art. For although there is a figure in the mass of shapes, planes and lines, the figure is aberrantly guessed at among the dominant abstract forms of the work making this piece altogether alluring and alarming. Although Picasso gives a new face to modern art with his abstract cubistic forms he does pay homage to his masters, his predecessors in the field. Although the work is defined chiefly as high Analytic Cubism, the tone (as mentioned before) is of a sepia quality that does not altogether match the objects and subjects of the painting (Cottington 22).

The color palate of the piece is reminiscent of Rembrandt with Picasso placing heavy emphasis on his brushstrokes (which are thick on the painting much like van Gogh’s) which gives the viewer’s attention to the artist of the work. Picasso’s brushstrokes are used almost as a signature since their heaviness makes the viewer think not of the object or of the subject but of the artist who made the brushstrokes; in this vein of thinking the painting becomes almost a self portrait.

For, if we are to delve into the art of high Analytic Cubism, would it not be appropriate to assume that the self portrait of Picasso would be done in accordance to such a movement and in so far as we discuss these components of art we may safely assume that something so abstract as a self portrait in brushstrokes merely can be another form of Cubism (Turner paragraph 1). In regards to Picasso’s work, the painting is a layered work adhering not to just Rembrandt’s tones but to Cubism, representation and love for the subject as well as the piece of art work.

The main element of the painting that is best deciphered through the abstract and cubistic forms is Picasso’s inclusion of the words ma jolie at the bottom of the canvas. These are the only objects that are clearly realistic in form. This phrase underscores the subject of the painting (Marcelle Humbert) as well as her clear standing with the artist; for although her body is not so easily recognizable in the painting, perhaps it may be said that the artist Picasso felt as though these words define his lover better than does her body.

The phrase better represents the woman than does the hand, the elbow, the floating smile which are disjointed and do not effectively give the viewer the idea that this subject is the artist’s lover (as the words at the bottom of the canvas so obviously evoke). Picasso’s guitar in this painting is similar to his synthetic cubist paintings again by the utilization of angles. Picasso presents the viewer with the guitar and woman in a multidimensional environment but the subjects are isolated on a two dimensional space.

Picasso was extravagant with his use of angles, and in the Ma Jolie this extravagance is deftly portrayed. His high Analytic Cubism art work is perhaps more in depth when the viewer pays close attention to the figure Picasso portrays, but the inanimate guitar for Picasso took on a new life in cubism and he related this life by placing his lover’s hands around the strings of the guitar giving both objects definite significance. The painting however is not as successful as his paintings of similar dates or at least of later dates.

High Analytic Cubism gave way to an enhanced portrayal of life for cubists, but Picasso’s paintings of a later date were more sophisticated in scope because they retained the essence of art and did not strictly rely on synthetic materials that can appear cheap when put to canvas. Picasso remained successful through his ventures in art genres by applying the same principles to each subject; that of movement through angles and the utilization of space.

In conclusion, Picasso’s painting Ma Jolie is a splendid representation of high Analytic Cubism. The viewer is bombarded with sepia and dark toned color palate as well as a typical distortion of forms through love which Picasso gives too much of his cubistic paintings. The real and the fantasy match well in Picasso’s work but their representation as a guitar and a lover paired with a favorite French folk song is one of Picasso’s best works.

The use of heavy lines with the object of his love is what is so unique about this painting. Due to the wealth of angles the canvas is busy and dynamic perhaps the best representation of what it feels like to be in love and to paint the object of that love. Thus, although the form of the woman is barely seen her presence is what dominants the canvas and this can be seen in the script Picasso included at the bottom of the canvas which reads ma jolie meaning this work is not only about Marcelle Humbert but is for her.

Works Cited Cottington, David. Cubism and Its Histories. New York: Macmillian, 2009. Lowry, Glenn, and Glenn D. Lowry. MOMA Highlights 325 Works from The Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002. Turner, Jane. Dictionary of art. New York: Grove, 1996. “MoMA” Pablo Picasso. “Ma Jolie”. Paris, winter 1911-12. ” MoMA” The Museum of Modern Art. 25 Mar. 2009 <http://www. moma. org/collection/browse_results. php? object_id=79051>.

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