In the course of 1909 the influence of Cézanne asserts itself with decisive effect. This applies not only to Cézanne's effort to reduce natural appearance to basic stereometric forms, but also to this technique of modulations, i.e., of constructing the picture surface by piecing together colored plane particles. In a head of a woman Picasso, who is now concerned with plastic rather than pictorial values, resorts directly to the principle of modulations: he articulates the head into facets, splitting it up into small angular and spherical planes. The aim pursued here can be only partially achieved if the artist clings to his model: Cézanne had wasted his strength trying to solve this problem comparable to the squaring of the circle.
That is why the face in our drawing is less abstract than the coiffure, the torso, or the hand. In the face itself, the mouth is naturalistic, the ear is completely geometric, and the eye is a little of each. As against the Demoiselles d'Avignon. this drawing marks a temporary regression: once again the autonomy of the picture is sacrificed to the static structure of the figure. The figure paintings of 1909 disclose the same one-sided concern with plastic effects, which is confirmed by the use of subdued colors (chiefly ochers and grays) in the modulation planes. The well-known bronze head of 1910 attempts to apply the principle of modulations to sculpture.
In 1910 Picasso made an energetic effort to restore the formal unity of the picture, which he had almost achieved in the Demoisellesd'Avignon. The figures surrender their solidity and spatial independence; they are flattened out and pushed closer to the background, which for its part, being formed of Cubist blocks, seems to come closer to the picture surface. In this way a homogeneous structure is secured; the painting produces the effect of a low relief rising gradually from the edges toward the center. In the beautiful Girl with a Mandolin of the Roland Penrose collection this formalizing process is still in an early stage, the figure still asserts its own rights, still retains plastic unity. The graceful feminine body and its movement are expressive even though they are not individualized. But at the same time its forms are embedded in the relief-like picture space, and the larger planes defining it are related to the picture surface, so that the half-figure can be the carrier of the artistic unity: the problem of the segment here is the same as that presented by the portrait bust which eighteenth-century painting solved ornamentally.
In the portrait of Wilhelm Uhde the background predominates over the figure, which can hardly be said to consist of connected volumes. It is broken up into a number of small planes that tend to merge with the picture surface. Only the faceted structure of the head, which decidedly suggests the head of a portrait, still asserts itself against the non-figural surroundings. The background is formed not of "cubes," but of overlapping planes, which serve as the new structural units. The same evolution is observable in the painting showing the church of Sacré-Cceur in Paris and the surrounding roofs and houses: in diametrical contrast to the weighted, block-like structure of Horta de Ebro, the spatially developed parts of the center and the gradually flattening surroundings seem suspended; they are completely integrated into the surface design.
In the portrait of Kahnweiler dating from 1910, the dissolution of the natural object into small fragments and the splitting up of the partial planes are pushed so far that the figure seems to lose its cohesion, and to blend with its surroundings: here the new intellectual order of the picture begins completely to dominate the order inherent in the subject matter. Only individualized fragments of the head and the hands are still legible in this almost non-objective composition. Here, Analytic Cubism has almost gone as far as possible in its attempt to force the spatial values of the optical appearance into the self-sufficient order of the picture. What remains of the natural object are only the general pattern and the dynamism of partial units. All the more amazing and profoundly characteristic of Picasso's own relation to nature is the fact that Kahnweiler had to sit more than twenty times for this portrait!
Although 1911 and 1912 saw further progress on the path leading to the elimination of the natural object, Picasso never made the final step toward non-objective or abstract painting, not even with his baffling Accordionist of 1911, which is a typical example of so-called "hermetic" Cubism. In relation to such works the question of the subject matter designated by the title becomes nearly meaningless. Accordingly the still life, with its less obtrusive subject matter, moves to the foremost place as regards pictorial themes.
Side by side with this development, the expression becomes depersonalized, so that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the paintings of Braque and Picasso, who were closely associated at that time. Color continues to be kept in neutral, subdued tones. Picasso still clung to only one subjective factor, which is connected with the shading of the facets and plane particles—namely, his personal, dispersive brush stroke. But here too a change was in the offing, which must be discussed in the context of his new general conception of the picture.
Pablo Picasso, Cubism, Pablo Picasso Biography, Picasso Paintings, Picasso Drawings, The Blue Nude, Don Quixote, Enamel Saucepan, Evening Flowers, Femme A La Fleur, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Spanish Art, The Dream, The Pigeons, Guernica, Musse, Bull with Bullfighter, Mediterranean Landscape, Nude and Still Life, Toros y Toreros, Mother and Child, Girl with Red Beret, Frau Mit Turban, The Bathers, The Lesson, The Old Guitarist, Three Bathers, Violin and Guitar, Lovers, Evening Flowers, The Kitchen