Picasso shares with many contemporary painters the urge to work in sculpture. In this he is unquestionably motivated by the desire to achieve a higher degree of reality, which was also the primary reason for his interest in ceramics. Because the sculptor deals with three dimensions, he can react to any object in the environment with an immediacy that is denied to the painter. For instance: a natural object can serve, without any change, as the starting point or component part of a sculptural work. Spontaneity of response and inventiveness are prime characteristics of Picasso's unique talent, but the actual modeling of his sculptures often fails to meet the specific requirements of this art. We would not do justice to his sculptural work were we to judge it by standards that can be properly applied only to a professional sculptor.
This, incidentally, is true of the sculptural work of any painter, even Renoir. The charm and uniqueness of such works can be understood only in terms of the pictorial style of their creators. Picasso's early sculptures are particularly close to his paintings in those years, and both can be considered together; in later periods, however, they seem to be more independent. His sculptures rarely reveal the continuity we have repeatedly found in considering his paintings. On the other hand, Picasso has occasionally anticipated and stimulated modern sculptors through his own inventions.
The plastic style of the Harlequin busts or of the contemporary Head of a Woman, of 1905, is obviously related to the style of that year's paintings which represent similar subjects. The delicate, vibrant treatment of the surface of the sculptured head is matched by the soft, fluid modeling of the painted figures, and the sensitive facial features are treated with equal delicacy in both. It is as though one of those painted figures had been translated into bronze. If this bust, with its surface largely dissolved into minute patches of light and shadow, still bears some likeness to Rodin's portrait busts, the small bronze Head of 1906, with its compact, symmetrical, and heavily rounded forms might suggest an affinity with Maillol.
Despite their proximity in time, these heads come from two distinct artistic periods, separated by Picasso's summer at Gosol in 1906: the first head is somewhat emotional, the second is related to the earliest abstract work. The small, regular, serene but not overly expressive head with the strong jaws, forceful, angular nose, little eyes, and mass of hair that fits like a cap is influenced by the Iberian bronzes with which Picasso became acquainted at that time. In 1907, the year of the Demoiselles d'Avignon, he produced a number of figures in wood, which reflect his interest in African Negro sculpture; and in 1910, after the Horta de Ebro period, he made the well-known Head of a Woman with the typical Cubist faceting of the details. Here Picasso may have felt a strong need to transpose the architectonic character of Cubist painting to an object that is actually three-dimensional.
In a series of small sculptures of 1914, Picasso pursued another Cubist objective—the simultaneous rendering of multiple views. He made numerous wax models of a glass of absinthe on which rests a spoon with a lump of sugar; these wax models were then cast in bronze and colored. The glass is open on one side, which led Kahnweiler to call this "transparent sculpture." (The Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni had systematically applied the principles of this kind of sculpture in his Bottle and Plate, of 1912.) Picasso's Glass of Absinthe with its irregular rim and other "painterly" features has the character of a casual but charming toy. Closely parallel to the papiers collés of the years preceding World War I are the "musical instruments" pieced together from rough bits of wood and attached to a base in the manner of a relief. These are not structures reproducing guitars or mandolins, but vigorously three-dimensional constructions made of assorted fragments; in other words, they are new objets along the lines of Synthetic Cubism. At that time Picasso produced many objets of this kind, also using other materials, such as paper, zinc, or tin; they were lost during the war when he changed studios frequently.
These works manifest with particular clarity the painter's desire for a degree of reality greater than that attainable in painting. They are a radical rejection of illusionism. Such an attitude makes sense only from the point of view of a painter, not a sculptor. The famous anecdote about the bewildered visitor who heard sounds of hammering coming from the studio of Picasso "the painter" thus gains deeper significance. Even later Picasso, this "king of ragpickers" (Cocteau), continued to dignify worthless trash by refashioning it artistically: in 1932, for example, he combined a butterfly, blades of grass, a dry, lacy leaf, a few matches, and a thumbtack to form a small relief of almost dramatic animation and subtle humor.
Picasso became interested in non-naturalistic outdoor sculpture at a very early date, but he never carried out his ideas on so ambitious a scale as another painter, Max Ernst, in his Lunar Asparagus, of about 1936. In 1927, at Cannes, Picasso conceived a series of "monuments"; and in the summer of 1928, at Dinard, he made drawings in which elementary, organic, anthropomorphic forms are pervaded by open space. In a lithograph of 1929, the monumental conception is strengthened by the beach cabin in the background and clearly shows the influence of openwork sculpture—sculpture à clairevoie—in which the important thing is not the continuity of the sculptural body, but its communication with the surrounding open space.
Again Picasso elaborates his metaphor on the human figure: a curious ring-shaped form connects the "torso" to the "legs," the arms are outspread, the breasts and head are tiny. The whole thing anticipates the figures which, as late as 1950, Henry Moore set up in his garden as imaginary members of a promenade whose structural design, in turn, is defined by the sculptured figures. Significantly "modern" in Picasso's invention is the revival of a primitive sculptural idea—the image of man as a vertical pole thickened at one end to indicate the head. This form is the nucleus of a whole series of Picasso's sculptures dating from 1931, which are carved of wood sticks and cast in bronze. In these works the "stick-like" element of the human body is blended with the drapery into a convincing unity, largely inspired by the wood medium.
The group of drawings made in Cannes which represent bathers —whose Surrealist metamorphic character we have already discussed—have their sculptural counterpart in the small bronze female figure which Picasso made in Paris in 1928. Metamorphosis—the mutation of forms—offered a singular challenge to three-dimensional creation, and it is no accident that this resulted in one of Picasso's happiest sculptural achievements. Solid masses are contrasted with hollow spaces enclosed by lighter parts. The dualism of positive and negative space, which is characteristic of the most recent sculpture, is enriched by yet another dualism. This second dualism is produced by rendering, in sculpture, the two main views of the figure, and is expressed primarily by the displacement of the breasts which provide a strong accent. The resultant form is something between sculpture in the round and the back-to-back reliefs such as are frequently seen atop medieval choir stalls.
Related to this figure is the bronze Cock, which Picasso made at Boisgeloup in 1932. This sculpture occupied a place of honor in the center of the Picasso gallery at the Salon de la Libération of 1944. It could occupy such a place because in contrast to the relief-like works preceding it, its effect is quite spatial. But it shares with the earlier works the contrast between heavy and light forms and their metamorphosis, which is thematically motivated by the juxtaposition of rump and feathers. It is very instructive to compare this Cock with another Cock, eighty-three inches high, of wrought iron, which Picasso made two years earlier and intended as an open-air exhibit. The two works reflect fundamentally different conceptions of sculpture. Whereas the bronze Cock of 1932 is derived from the natural model and, despite parts that enclose and articulate the negative space, is essentially a positive volume, the wrought-iron Cock is a construction that only indirectly suggests the idea of the living animal; it has no volume at all, and is an openwork sculpture in every respect. In addition, the special technique applied here, which Picasso learned from González, produces some surprising effects—the tail feathers, for instance, are shaped like leaves, which results in an extraordinarily bold, imaginative creation.
The head of a woman of 1931 is constructed from even cheaper materials, in part, of scraps from a mechanic's workshop. Here, association with the natural object is achieved by even more roundabout means. What the beholder sees even depends on his position, and he can scarcely grasp the artist's intention if he cbnfines himself to one view. Picasso did not, however, attempt to represent time in the manner of Moholy-Nagy's constructions which must be rotated, or Calder's continuous motion mobiles. (An interesting formal analogy to Calder's mobiles is provided by Picasso's abstract pen drawings of 1924, reproduced as woodcuts in Vollard's 1931 edition of Balzac's Le chef d'œuvre inconnu, although these designs, like the sculpture of Picasso discussed before, have definite representational connotations). It is characteristic of the anthropomorphic quality of Picasso's imagination that he does not construct complicated technical apparatus in his three-dimensional sculptural works. In his wire sculptures, made around 1930, he effects rich and compact spatial organization by means of simply arranged elements, and even retains the principle of the figure by alluding to parts of the body ("head," "hands").
The Mediterranean temperament that makes Picasso, the sculptor, prefer the compact and the representional also makes him adhere to the static type of sculpture in which the balance depends upon placing the center of gravity somewhere above the base. The magnificent, largerthan-life Head of a Woman of 1931-32, cast in light bronze, has Classical proportions and sober, clearly modeled forms. Austere, yet rich, like the pediment sculptures of Olympia, this is the noblest example of Picasso's work in the full round. It affirms the static principle despite the strongly diagonal axis which becomes an expressive value. Later—and this reflects his specifically tactile disposition— Picasso showed preference for objects that can be held in the hand ("hand sculptures"); they have no top or bottom in the static sense, and their plastic effect is no longer determined by their position in space.
Among these are the small head-like forms modeled in 1943 and cast in bronze, which have no fixed base. Here Picasso is obviously interested less in the round form of the head than in the cavities of the eyes and mouth which invite continuous exploration by touch. Presumably, these attempts anticipate the skulls that Picasso was to model occasionally during the war years. The most impressive of these is the oversized bronze skull of 1944 which, like some medieval skulls, is not a skeletal structure, but a large closed form with a few deeply shaded cavities. The contrast between the protruding cranium and the hollow parts of the face, which is terminated in a harsh line, is heightened by the smooth, shining surface of the forehead and the rough, partly destroyed surface of the cheeks and jaws. These effects are due to the crumbly nature of the wet plaster with which Picasso prefers to build up his figures.
Picasso's sculptural conceptions are often inspired by the form and material of objects, usually fragmentary, that he finds quite by accident. In 1937, for example, he found an old corroded bone which suggested to him the precise outline of the beak and delicate tuff of a bird; with a few touches—mainly, by drilling an eye—he completed the illusion. His hand, equally deft with the most vigorous and most subtle expression, can transform rubbish into a unique artistic object, which no one can look at with indifference, whether it inspires admiration or laughter. Occasionally the banality of the original object used by Picasso destroys the illusion, and thus a particular tension is created between the original object or fragment and the new artistic' object.
This is the case with the famous Head of a Bull which Picasso conjured up from the seat and handle bars of an old bicycle (the handle bars are the horns); similarly, the principal parts of the Stork, of 1942, are fragments of a child's scooter. In 1951 Picasso fashioned the body of his Crane from a shovel, its head from a faucet, and its feet from metal forks whose tines he splayed apart. During the same period he made the Monkey for whose body he used a large ball, to which he attached the extremities, which consist in part of mechanical bits-and-pieces; for its head he used a toy automobile—the animal's beady eyes are set in the windshield. In each case the primary aspect of the artist's achievement lies in his ability to discover the sculptural possibilities in everyday objects, to the amazement of every beholder.
He performed a comparable feat of the imagination when he saw an owl in the slightly asymmetrical, compressed oval of a pebble ground smooth by nature, apparently even before he had found, at Antibes, the simplest graphic formula for an owl on paper. On another occasion, around 1950, Picasso cut pieces of tin plate into a small owl with outspread wings, and into a small wagtail, and attached the sculptures fashioned from these pieces to pieces of ordinary brick. The effect, particularly of the wagtail, is amazing: the charming sculpture blends so beautifully with the air around it that one can almost feel the wind that seems to be playing around the tail feathers of the teetering bird. The most original sculptured rendition of the owl, perhaps the most extraordinary of all representations of that bird, is the painted ceramic of 1950. The self-contained general design of the extremely simplified body on short legs—the preliminary drawings still show longer legs—is genuinely sculptural, although the effect of volume is dissolved by the uneven treatment of the surface and, still more, by the chiaroscuro of the coloring.
Picasso for the most part models directly in plaster (not in clay)—a technique used by the great stucco-workers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. From this less pliable material he wrests a great range of effects, whether the sculpture is small or large. In this medium even large sculptures must be modeled rapidly. Picasso finished the over-life-size Shepherd Carrying a Lamb in one day, in February 1943, after he had clarified his conception in numerous preliminary drawings which extended over a period of six months. This work was cast in bronze in 1944, and set up in Yallauris. The imprint of the hastily applied, quick-drying plaster is still evident in the bronze—a quality which is the main charm in this kind of sculpture.
The almost life-size Pregnant Woman of 1950 demonstrates a more moderate naturalism, as regards the formal elements, combined with an almost frightening explicitness, as regards the motifs. The generalized head, as well as the arms and legs, are subordinated to the strongly swollen womb and the large breasts, which are smooth, in contrast to the rest of the body. This woman is related to the figures of the Massacre in Korea, which will be discussed in the next chapter. Dating from about the same time is the larger-than-life Goat, overflowing with animal vitality, which was first modeled in plaster and then cast in bronze.
Photographs taken during the work show that the armature to which the plaster was applied was made of all sorts of worthless objects—an old basket, a lamp, etc. Picasso had modeled over-life-size, naturalistic cats as early as 1941. However, in this powerful Goat, which is also a symbol of fertility, naturalism is exaggerated to stress the element of fecundity, but at the same time stereometrically simplified. The shoulder region conceived in almost Cubist fashion, for example, contrasts with the swelling forms of the distended udders, whose smooth treatment is, in turn, a striking contrast to the rough surface of the surrounding parts.
The large, severe head of a goat with its narrow, asymmetrical jaws reappears in a still life sculpture of 1952; the rectangular plane of the floor connects the head with a bottle placed directly opposite it, in whose neck there is a burning candle. (Picasso had actually used such a primitive candlestick in Madrid when he was twenty.) Here, in accordance with the principle of Cubist "transparent sculpture," the bottle is open in the back, and the rays of light from the candle have been given sculptural form. The whole sculpture is painted in black and white stripes, which tends to dematerialize it; and the rays of light are bordered in black!
But the most prominent feature of this threedimensional still life is the tantalizing treatment of space which compels the beholder to look at it from constantly changing points of view—the most recent confirmation of the hypothesis that the painter turns to sculpture in order to capture a dimension which in painting is only an illusion. Yet, along with these sculptured works, Picasso also painted still life compositions with goat's skull and candlestick in gray monochrome, with very expressive chiaroscuro effects. Just as he hald done in his youth, he simultaneously attacked the problem in painting and in sculpture.
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