Category Archives: Paintings of Cubists

Here you will find the detailed analysis of the most famous paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Not necessarily cubist.

Pablo Picasso – Don Quixote (1955) (Analysis)

Don Quixote is a well-known sketch by Pablo Picasso created in 1955 by the request of a poet Louis Aragon for a French literary magazine. That issue of the magazine was entirely devoted to the work of the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. Picasso took the characters for the picture from Miguel’s novel that bears the same title. They are Don Quixote and his companion Sancho Panza.

Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso
                    Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso

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By the way, the novel is regarded as one of the best novels ever written. Miguel de Cervantes created it as a satire of all chivalric romances the main hero of which, after reading too many romances of that kind, tired of dreaming, leaves everything that he has, abandons his home, and starts to travel the world.

Picasso’s drawing was published on the last page of the magazine. The graphic picture quickly became popular among those people who admired the art of the famous artist but the original sketch was lost.

The Analysis of Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso

The painting depicts Don Quixote on horseback, his friend Sancho Panza, sitting on a donkey, the sun, and several windmills. At first glance, Picasso’s strokes and lines look pretty careless, almost like scribbles, but if you take a look at it more attentively, you will realize that the author was extremely confident about what he was doing which makes a simple black and white picture unique and memorable.

                       A documentary “Pablo Picasso: The Legacy of A Genius” (1981)

Sitting on the donkey, Sancho-Panza looks at his friend from the bottom up, while the weary traveler Don Quixote looks thoughtfully into the distance. Although their postures do show strong fatigue, it doesn’t affect a noble bearing. Apparently, Don Quixote’s body was redrawn more than once, an unusual helmet hides the head, his thin neck is depicted with one long stroke, an eagle’s nose, a goatee beard. He holds the long spear is in one hand, and the round shield in the other.

Panza is drawn in the form of a silhouette that has a strange shape, in which you can see the outlines of a jacket. It’s obvious, that the artist definitely spent less time and effort depicting Panza than Don Quixote. The picture turned out to be memorable, very emotional and surprisingly precise. It does look very bright, full of movement, emotions, and clear lines. The sketch is depicted in black and white. With each stroke Picasso as if narrates us about his infinitely energetic, freedom-loving, and creative nature.

                                 A series “Genius: Picasso” starring Antonio Banderas

Dark lines on a light background amaze with their clarity and simplicity, it is clear that the artist drew them with a firm, unwavering hand. Don Quixote and the mill which separates him and Sancho Panza, are depicted more clearly, noting their importance for the composition. We can say that Sancho Panza and other figures are hardly noticeable at all.

With the help of black lines, the artist showed us what exactly occupied the thoughts of Don Quixote, things that added mystics to the reality we are accustomed to. The main hero was contemplating about everything – about the horse, windmills, and the surrounding setting.

The Original Don Quixote – An Overwhelming Discovery

In 2010, the original drawing “Don Quixote” by Pablo Picasso was accidentally discovered in the Georgian family in Tbilisi by art critic Lali Lebanidze. According to the family member, the picture was sent to them by the relative from abroad. The most interesting thing is that the painting was always considered to be a copy.

After a long and careful examination, the Georgian art historian concluded that in his opinion, the find was the original Don Quixote painting by Pablo Picasso, not just a regular print like it was considered before. Nevertheless, it was never officially confirmed and the authenticity of the discovery remained doubtful. For real Picasso enthusiasts, I highly suggest considering this “Ultimate Picasso” hardcover or paperback.


Family of Saltimbanques (La Famille de Saltimbanques) by Pablo Picasso (1905)

The painting “Family of Saltimbanques” by Pablo Picasso belongs to the so-called Picasso’s “pink period” which replaced the sad and dark “blue period”. It also can sometimes be called “circus” as the main heroes of most of the paintings are wandering and roving artists. Circus actors at the time were regarded as the representatives of the lower class, a sort of underdogs of the society, but they were, nevertheless, free and independent.

Family of Saltimbanques by Pablo Picasso (1905)
  Family of Saltimbanques by Pablo Picasso (1905)           Check out the reproductions & prints here

The Prerequisite For The Family Of     Saltimbanques

It was this romanticized freedom that lured the avant-garde artists, who were looking forward to “throwing off” the shackles of an academic genre and following their imagination, despite the criticism and conservative society. So, as you can see, at that time the portrayal of circus performers was simply popular. That’s why Picasso also couldn’t leave it unnoticed.

                         Find out more about Pablo Picasso, his paintings, cubism, etc

The next conjecture would be the fact that during some period of time, Picasso lived in a Parisian dormitory where he was surrounded by friends who enjoyed the circus. In addition to that, the master liked to visit “Medrano” circus in Montmartre, Paris, from where he, supposedly, drew his inspiration. There is an assumption that all the characters of the painting really existed, and they are not the fruit of the author’s imagination.

The Analysis Of The Picasso’s Circus Family

The author placed the figures of comedians in the deserted landscape, devoid of vegetation. The blue sky in the background is covered with clouds. All 6 characters of the canvas psychologically alienated from each other – they do not communicate with each other, their views do not intersect, but nevertheless, they look harmoniously and united.

There is something common in their faces, eyes, and figures. Collective isolation conveys the sadness of the characters. The dominant color indicates the optimistic beginning, rather than the pessimistic ending. The brushwork, color shades give a feeling of melancholy. The heroes of the artwork are in a thoughtful, depressed mood. It conveys the emptiness of being and the state of unexpected waiting.

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The plot of the painting is also extremely sorrowful. It seems that this rather big family is going to move somewhere once again, but everyone is waiting for a pale-faced woman who is sitting closer to the viewer, looking sadly into the distance, and for some reason, not in a hurry to leave this place.

We can also suppose that the painting shows the parting of close friends. The nature of their activity can be traced through the clothes, however, the relationship to the creative environment also demonstrate their feet – they are in specific dance positions.

Harlequin with a scarf around his neck sadly looks at the plump man that stands opposite him. Most likely, the scarf symbolizes a restriction. Probably, the actor is within some limits that oppress him. His checked costume which used to entertain the audience so often, on the contrary, makes the image dull.

The girl sadly looks at her feet. It seems that it’s hard for her to experience these moments. The black wings darken her image and sort of limit freedom. Perhaps, a very high price was paid for it.

The figures of young acrobats are slightly turned to the side. They look at the beautiful lady, kind of detached from the parting. A stout man in the red suit and a fool’s cap is most likely the head of the clan. His figure symbolizes success and satisfaction with life. He talks to the Harlequin. The circus actors froze as if waiting for some command or order to move on.

Family of Saltimbanques (Sketch)
                   The Family of Saltimbanques (Sketch)

As for the technical side of the painting, the author worked here in the usual for the “rose period” coloring – warm, ocherous, golden, silver and pink range of colors. Picasso paid much greater attention to the composition – recent X-ray studies have shown that the master was rewriting the arrangement of figures on the canvas several times until the desired result was achieved.

 The Meaning Of The Picasso’s Painting

There is a guess that the painting “Family of Saltimbanques” tells about the personal feelings and the experience of the artist. Thus, Pablo Picasso shows his attitude towards art in general. He painted himself in the image of the sad harlequin with a girl by the hand who symbolizes his muse. He turns around, says goodbye and walks away from the self-sufficient and contented life. The scarf around his neck squeezes his throat and limits the will.

He doesn’t need this material well-being, prosperity, and beautiful women anymore. He wants to live for the sake of art, by his own rules. The artist does not want the audience, success and the money from sold works. These bounds are limiting his freedom. It’s unbearable for the creator.

Of course, it is very sad to say goodbye to all, but the artist just can’t do it another way. This picture conveys an uneasy inner world of an artist. Most of the works of Picasso’s “rose period” are permeated with the spirit of the tragic loneliness and deprivation. Like many other Picasso’s works, the “Family of Saltimbanques” (Circus Family) is currently located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.


The Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso (1937) (Analysis)

Pablo Picasso always amazed people by his unique manner of drawing pictures. Many of his canvases consistently became masterpieces. Well, of course, there were some more extravagant painters such as, for example, Salvador Dali but Picasso always had his own kind of vision of the world. The painting “Weeping Woman” is a very vivid example of it.

weeping woman pablo picasso
             Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso

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Despite the bright colors used by the artist, the painting is extremely sad. It’s very interesting how he managed to empathize the woman and use such colors at the same time. Anyone looking at the weeping woman by Pablo Picasso feels and understands the indescribable grief that can be seen in her eyes.

After the very first look at the picture, you immediately start to contemplate what happened to her. This great pain and suffering make us unwittingly sympathize with her. Maybe she lost a loved one, and her heart is torn apart. It’s well known that Picasso had a great ability to convey emotions.

The Main Idea Of The Painting By Picasso

It has always been extremely difficult to be able to understand the main idea of the work of art, but we must admit, that it becomes even harder when we are we’re dealing with the paintings of Pablo Picasso. That’s why we can only guess what was the true reason for such deep sorrow and unhappy facial expression of this woman. In this particular painting, the whole face of the woman is extremely distorted by despair.

It’s not possible to recognize it. Many women claimed that they posed a talented artist but it could not be proved. But how could one verify whether it was the truth or a lie? The author didn’t leave a single opportunity to do it. He veiled the woman’s image beyond recognition.

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It’s commonly supposed that the painting depicts Dora Maar – a professional photographer, the daughter of a Croatian architect with whom the artist was in a close relationship for nine years from 1936 to 1945. Dora was taking pictures of the crippled, the blind, the homeless, combining the beauty and ugliness, luxury and poverty into the mysterious and spooky surrealism. Dora’s art was bold and avant-garde. Critics called her style “tragic Baroque” and “aesthetic disaster”.

Pablo Picasso & Dora Maar
                   Pablo Picasso & Dora Maar

Maar became some sort of intellectual distraction for Picasso, who at the moment of acquaintance with her experienced a creative crisis. It was she who pushed him to the avant-garde movement and political themes. Maar taught Picasso photography and took up painting under his influence. Together they were producing kind of “photoengravings” on the glass with the help of which, as if from huge negatives, were making prints on photo paper. Dora was the main model of Picasso for all 9 years. (Check out his bio here)

Dora Maar (Picasso's lover)
                                                    Dora Maar

The Analysis Of The Picasso’s Weeping Woman

In the canvas “The Weeping Woman” the author slightly opened the bright mask, literally cut the face of the beloved into pieces, revealing the pale insides of the true grief, showing the real emotions of the woman. He depicts this sad truth with gray, pale colors. The mouth is distorted by suffering. The clenched teeth convulsively tear the crumpled handkerchief, which she presses to her face.

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The woman tries to hold back her tears as hard as she can but they are rolling down her cheeks without asking the permission. The hands are also seen in the painting. Weeping, we almost always press the face with hands, wipe the tears. The hands that constantly reach for the face were extremely authentically depicted by the master. Her eyes are like two buttons sewn crosswise – dead plastic crosses instead of pupils negate life in the weeping look.

“The Weeping Woman” by Pablo Picasso is a collective image of all grieving women who lost in the war their husbands and sons. Tears of fear and despair, seeing the appeared ghost of death, seize the humanity on the threshold of a global catastrophe of the Second World War. In this painting, Picasso by showing the fate of one man, shows the same destructive power of the demon of death, flying over people, splitting people apart and turning them into ghosts.


Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Picasso (1910) (Analysis)

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 the ability to find 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.

Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Picasso
      Portrait of Ambroise Vollard by Picasso             High-Quality Prints & Reproductions

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 great caution, not speaking about such specific things as cubist portraits.

                             The most comprehensive book on the work of Pablo Picasso

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 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 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 conceding and knows exactly what he wants from life.

Ambroise Vollard
                              Ambroise Vollard

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.

                        A documentary “Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism” (2007)

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.

Portrait of Ambroise vollard (realistic pencil sketch)
Portrait of Ambroise Vollard (realistic pencil sketch)

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.