• gerard van weyenbergh

The "Magic paintings 1926-1930"by Picasso analyzed.

In the summer of 1926, Pablo Picasso entered a state of creative trance. As bewitched, the artist launched, until the spring of 1930, in a series of 150 paintings where female heads and bodies metamorphose into strange encrypted messages. Described as "magic paintings" by the art critic Christian Zervos in 1938, these curious assemblages of forms were gathered during an exhibition at the Picasso Museum. The opportunity to dissect and reveal their secret formula! 1. Enter into a trance

To achieve this series of "magic tables", Picasso changed into a shaman. As if absorbed by an incantatory ritual, the painter draws in series, at a steady pace. With a few variations, he declines the same strange shapes from one canvas to another, as if he repeated in a loop a spell dictated by an invisible power! At a time when intellectuals are passionate about the occult, the dream, and psychoanalysis, would Picasso be devoting himself to a pictorial equivalent of automatic writing, which allows the surrealists to let their unconscious speak? Not quite, object curators Émilie Bouvard, Marilyn McCully, and Michael Raeburn: through this state of trance, the artist would rather reveal the part of the invisible presence in the real world around him.

2. Translate the real as signs

Most often, the "magic pictures" represent a woman's head, or a woman sitting in a chair ... but translated into a very strange language. Picasso invents new forms that seem to come from another world and carry with them secret meanings; hence the term "magic" used by Zervos. His recipe? To reduce the figures to expressive assemblages of simple lines (sometimes curved and sinuous, sometimes straight and angular), embellished with some mysterious signs (stylized almonds for the eyes, an oval bristling teeth for the mouth, a bouquet of black lines for the hair), positioned in a staggered way. So each painting becomes a great ideogram to decipher!

3. Metamorphose women into creatures

Twenty years after his first Cubist experimentation, the painter has destroyed female figures by exaggerating, modifying, and moving their features, even transforming these ladies into strange extraterrestrial creatures with antennae, noses, and sharp fangs! In Bust of a Woman with Self-Portrait (1929), the model transformed into a strange neighing horse, even more, schematic than that of Guernica (1938). As if the painter sought to bring out, to embody plastically, the interiority of the women represented. Or at least the way he perceives them secretly: dangerous, confusing, indecipherable.

4. Get inspired by "primitive" arts

At the time, avant-garde artists became increasingly interested in the simple and powerful forms of the early arts. Masks, fetishes, statuettes. In the mid-1920s, the painter possessed an important collection of non-Western and, in particular, African works. Ritual objects which clearly continues to inspire for this series of paintings. As for the rectangular frames in which Picasso encloses its strange shapes, they evoke a European object just as "magic": the ex-voto!

5. Bet on color contrasts

To accentuate the striking simplicity of his paintings, Picasso uses assemblages of colored planes governed by strong contrasts, either by creating strident associations of bright and primary colors ( Woman in a chair, 1927) or by juxtaposing light and dark. From these colorful backgrounds, the artist brings out black lines, sometimes themselves enhanced, for an even sharper effect, a bright white.

6. Introduce mysterious shadows

In the background of many of these paintings, such as Bust of Woman with Self-Portrait (February 1929) or Harlequin (1927), the artist slides a mysterious and poetic figure: a male profile with clear contours, like a shadow cut on a wall ... and which is nothing but a reference to the spiritual presence of Picasso himself! A way for the painter to continue to watch over the represented scene and to assert himself as a clairvoyant poet, able to perceive and reveal the invisible ... To these shadows - no doubt inspired by surrealist photographs - sometimes substitute mists: for Figure (Summer 1927), Picasso uses pulverized white chalk to create a vaporous and unreal atmosphere. Resolutely magic! see images and post in French on Beaux-Arts https://www.beauxarts.com/expos/la-formule-secrete-des-tableaux-magiques-de-picasso/#&gid=1&pid=2