Ambroise Vollard was a pretty well-known person among most of the European artists of the early 20th century. He was a merchant, businessman, entrepreneur. His range of business interests was not connected with cubist portraits, but primarily with the works of arts in general.
He had an ability to find the talented painters, buy their paintings wholesale, advertise the “genius” in the best galleries and salons, and then sell the works triple the price. Nevertheless, many outstanding artists including Gauguin, Cezanne, and van Gogh were grateful to him for his financial and moral support.
Vollard’s Reaction to Cubism and His Cubist Portrait
Artists depended on the mood of their investor: dreamed of being noticed by him, did their best to be helpful to him. The reputable Spanish cubist Pablo Picasso was one of Vollard’s favorite painters, especially during his “blue” and “rose” periods. But as soon as the great master started experimenting and including some innovations in his work, Vollard immediately lost his interest in Picasso, because he could not be sure that the new work will bring profit. They were too unusual and revolutionary. Investors, in general, have always been distinguished by a great caution, not speaking about such specific things as cubist portraits.
It all started with a portrait of Ambroise Vollard. Picasso painted the businessman in his new manner. The word cubism or word-combination cubist portraits had not yet become known among the art critics and the society treated new artists with a great doubt and concern. The portrait was criticized by Vollard, but he did take it as a present and a few years later, this work was bought by the famous Russian patron and collector Shchukin for a quite big sum of money.
The Analysis Of The Cubist Portrait
This cubist painting was created in the unique and remarkable style of analytical cubism. In this portrait, you can guess the incredibly detailed image of Vollard. A great scrupulousness can be felt in his clothes: snow-white handkerchief peeking out of his pocket. It is known that Vollard was really incredibly elegant.
The viewer sees Vollard as if reflected in a broken mirror. Each fragment represents the part of the whole image, and at the same time shows this image in a new way. The fragments are separated from each other and are fancily dispersed over the space of the whole canvas.
In this work, the viewer does not have to understand two or three grounds like in a regular painting, but tens of absolutely different grounds – near and far, each of which is important. In this picture, we don’t see a refined connoisseur and lover of the arts. On the contrary, we do see a resourceful and stubborn fighter who is not accustomed to concede and knows exactly what he wants from life.
The whole picture is subject to a strict rhythm. The color scheme is pretty monochrome. It does not distract from the main thing – from the model itself, its mood, the internal mood, and energy. Pretty dark tones dominate the general background. Contrasts are virtually none. This work is dominated by structure, which is deliberately complicated. The face of the hero is incredibly dramatic.
In this cubist painting, there can be traced some features of abstractionism. The viewer can also be amazed by the unusual angle of view, which opens even a neck of the character without stopping of demonstrating his face. After a short period of time, this painting became a certain standard for all cubist artists.
Many people say that Picasso’s cubist painting of Ambroise Vollard was more successful than his other portrayals by numerous artists in the usual style of realism. All the people who personally knew Vollard admitted that Picasso was able not only to achieve a striking resemblance but also to convey such subtle nuances as character and habits.
Vollard resumed his cooperation with Picasso when Cubism and cubist paintings became a respected and sought-after area of art. However, now he had to be content with a very small profit because the purchase price had changed dramatically. Soon after the creation, the portrait was bought by a merchant Sergei Shchukin and brought to Russia.
Today the painting is at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. This painting is considered to be the masterpiece of analytical cubism and one of the best cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso. If you’re a real fan of this brilliant artist, you definitely need to see this great hardcover.