Violin (1912)

Krauss, The Picasso PapersThe Picasso Papers, by Rosalind E. Krauss. Continued from All Signs Lead to Picasso.

In her first essay, “Circulation of Signs,”Krauss offers responses to individual works. So, likewise, I’ve decided to offer my own thoughts on Picasso’s Violin (1912), along with a couple of Krauss’ ideas which I found technically useful. 

Violin (1912) as a whole is an amalgam of surfaces, and yet you get a sense of the  “thingness” of the object, but in a way which makes us conscious of the elements which express themselves otherwise naturally and are often received somewhat subconsciously.

The three dimensional quality is expressed in only what is essential to express a three dimensional object, which is much less than what a photo of a violin expresses. There is no shared “horizon,” into which everything “vanishes.” There are only shadows and all parts of the violin, seen from different angles, can be seen all at once.

A violin is a complex object. The way it plays with the light is beautiful, and Picasso conveys this with the stark contrast of light and dark areas. Using newspaper print, he also conveys what Krauss calls “atmosphere.” She discusses how he makes use of positive and negative space, as an example of how the meaning of the signs used are internal and relative to each other. IE, the contour of one element is the contour of another and either can be signifier (of a violin or part of a violin) and background.


Only when finishing the drawing did I realize how important the use of collage is to this work. When I only used pencil, it fell flat.


I think there is so much going on in the newspaper that it stands out as a different surface. The image of individual letters lined across the columns, which create visual rhythm, are enough to make its audience see it (even as part of a digital image, which is then printed into a book and then photographed for this blog) as a different surface, and thus lends itself to the illusion of depth.


Maybe if I simply make the gray areas more busy. Here is the original side by side with either version.

I think the unevenness of the second version creates the illusion of more depth than the first version. It appears more airy and recedes further back into the picture than the spaces filled in with charcoal. The spaces filled in with pencil in the first version seem to share and compete with the spaces of charcoal, because they are too similar. When the surfaces are more varied, there is more complexity of depth overall.


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