Still Life with Violin and Fruit
Paris, winter 1912
Charcoal, black chalk, watercolor, oil paint, coarse
charcoal or black pigment in binding medium, on newspaper
(Le Journal, 6 and 9 December 1912), blue and white laid
charcoal papers, supported by thin cardboard
64 x 49.5 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art
From "Picasso and Things," Cleveland Museum of Art:
"After the spareness of Picasso's papiers colles with newsprint from December 1912, this "Still Life with Violin and Fruit"...delights us with its indulgence and provocation of our senses. It has the charming, and, at that time, rare combination of a violin with a compote of fruit on a table behind a ladder-back chair.
"Picasso used a great deal of Le Journal again, of 6 and 9 December 1912, but he handled it with grace. He fashioned the bowl of the compote deftly out of newsprint, as he did a skirt for the table, a support for the scroll of the violin, and a rectangle behind the glass that leans toward the right. He also used part of the masthead to indicate the newspaper itself resting on the table. As Edward Fry points out in his remarkable analysis of this work, Picasso even used a different newsprint under the glass, at a slightly different angle, so that "the transparent, refractive quality of the empty glass is emphasized." Where headings do appear, they are legible and cleverly placed - "[app]arition" above the glass and URNAL below. "L'Apparition" is a story of a seance in a "sumptuous salon" by Frederic Boutet in the g December Le Journal. LA VIE SPORTIVE, with nevvs of skating, football, billiards, if not all the sports to which this term is applied is upside down at the bottom and dashing. CHRONIQUE FINAN[ciere], with some news of improvement in the stock market, also upside down, disappears, however, into shadow by and under the chair. Picasso also seems to have found decorative qualities in the columns of the newsprint, which he emphasized by shading.
"Picasso was willing to explore the ornamental, such as the strong pattern of the dark gray chair, his imitation wood graining, and even in something as simple as repeating three white approximate rectangles of white paper in a rhythmic fanning, one between us and the chair, the second as the pedestal of the compote, and the third as the light side of the fingerboard of the violin. He also took pleasure in color. As Gary Tinterow has observed, "This arbitrary use of color paved the way for the bright and unexpected colors of Synthetic Cubism."
"Although Picasso worked positively with our pleasure in pattern and color, he did introduce ambiguities into the work, for example, in giving the table two tops, one faux bois and angular, the other white and round, or the compote two bases, one the pillarlike pedestal, the other a combination of angles and the profile of the faux bois soundboard of the violin. But it is the violin that he made most paradoxical by tearing it apart turning one profile of its soundboard into imitation wood-graining, another into a heavily textured and contoured area of paint, pasting on paper for the light and dark side of the fingerboard and the beautiful blue paper for its sound holes and bridge, and then drawing strongly over the newsprint to transform the violin's scrolls into eyes and its pegs into sprouting double moustaches. The degree to which Picasso broke apart this violin letting us look at it from different directions in different, if contiguous, spaces, can be seen by comparing it with one of the purer papiers colles, "Violin" where the newspaper clippings have never been securely identified but since they refer to an incident in the Balkan War of 26 November 1912, they must have been printed the next day or the day after that. This violin is much simpler, more restrained, and definitely more stable as it stands erect with almost military precision. In "Still Life with Violin and Fruit", the musical instrument, on the other hand, tilts dangerously to the right and contains within it all sorts of rhythmic relationships that seem to lead appropriately to the expressive scroll and pegs. In apposition to the violin is the retiring compote whose rectangular white pedestal leans insecurely to the left but is somewhat stabilized by the vertical of the chair below. Nevertheless, the compote and the violin need each other to achieve equilibrium, which gives the work much of its animation.
"In the newspaper bowl for the fruit, from the financial page, page 8, of Le Journal of 6 December, there are three charming chromolithographed botanical prints of an apple, a pear, and a quince, with two others peering up behind them. Fry points out that, "paradoxically, the cutouts of fruit seem to overlap each other, yet physically they do not". And there are many other paradoxes in the work including the fact that Picasso was beginning to use coarsened, impregnated paint to give the kind of texture foreign to the concept of the original flat Cubist papiers colles. "Still Life with Violin and Fruit" possesses humor, wit, and above all an appetite for art and life that make it probably the most generous of all Picasso's still lifes with pasted papers."