Visual Analysis Of Girl Before A Mirror By Pablo Picasso

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Girl before a Mirror is an oil on canvas abstract portrait painting created by Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso in 1932. Marie-Thérèse Walter, one of his young mistresses is said to be the subject of this painting.

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This painting depicts two sides of a woman. Fundamentally this is a painting of a woman observing her reflection in a mirror. On the left the woman seems to be younger, innocent even. While her reflection portrays a worn out, fading, and dark presence. She seems to be reflecting on how her face is changing, flawed, and aging. The differing colors, lines, and shapes narrate a story of vanity, longing, and the contemplation of self-worth.

Girl Before a Mirror is an art piece that speaks about self-reflection, whether it be how we internally and externally see ourselves versus how other people perceive us; or the contrasting aspects of our natures. One side is illustrated with a vivid tone, while the other side displays a more muted and dark color palette. The white “halo” that appears to be looming over her head, blended in with the soft lavender pink gives her a serene presence, which later clashes with a more harshly painted, almost charcoal like texture of her face. This rougher side of the subject resembles a crescent moon, bright yellow and “dolled up” with green eye-shadow, rouge and lipstick. This can possibly mean that this is what the subject looks like at night, juxtaposed to a more subtle, vulnerable, and natural looking woman on the left. It could suggest her day self and her night self, comparing her composure/serenity to her exuberance/vibrancy. Not only that, but the mirror reflection indicates an internal image of the woman’s soul, her future and her eventual fate. The viewer can interpret that this “self” is more anxious and older.

The way her body is depicted in the reflection, caved in as if time has had an effect on her face and body. The position/level of her breast suggest gravity has caught up to her, while the apparent green discoloration on her forehead suggest aging. Because her face is darker, eyes rounder, pupils not present, hollow/sunken face and her body is twisted, the viewer can infer this is an aged version of the woman looking at her reflection or this is how she actually views herself. She reaches out for her reflection in a way that suggest she is trying to create a connection between each “self, ” implying that they are one in the same.

The art piece is vibrant; the colors used are intense and are strategically placed adjacent to their complements. By placing colors next to their complements, Picasso is able to produce a captivating visual connection between shape and form. Picasso’s use of organic forms enhances the viewer’s experience and leads the viewer’s eyes throughout the canvas. These shapes guide the viewer across the art work, where circular shapes, that are repeated all over the piece, are offset by varying diagonal line patterns in the background. The viewer can clearly observe the woman’s profile and full body. The subject is looking into the mirror, grabbing the frame and observing a different view of herself. Picasso accomplished this effect by applying a range of proper elements that highlight the change in her reflection. These elements clearly demonstrate an inconsistent relationship occurring between both subjects.

In addition, Picasso emphasizes the power of line formation to shape and distinguish the arrangement between the woman from her reflection. The artist uses thick and thin vertical, curved, horizontal, and parallel lines. Although, the most eye-catching, is Picasso’s use of black lines that are thick and keep the art piece balanced and precise. The front part of the subject’s face and body are dependent on the use of thick, dark rounded lines which accentuate and transform her features. Lines such as these help the subject blend/conform to the angles of the harlequin-patterned background and add rhythm to the piece. Repetition is prevalent throughout the painting, as Picasso utilizes the same thick and black vertical lines to warp the subjects body to reveal her profile view. While using black horizontal lines to display that the other side is completely clothed. Opposite to this, the face on the profile side has been outlined with thin and delicate vertical lines, which could demonstrate a youthful essence within the subject. Lines on the first figure’s profile are clearer, more defined and balanced. Compared to the subject’s reflection which illustrates quick and distressed line sections that do not hold any particular order. Abstract and visually appealing, so intricate that the audience could disregard how the subject’s anatomy in this piece is torn apart, isolated. The reflected subject can be seen as regretful and even morphed compared to the transparency on the left.

Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror depicts a woman looking not out to her audience, but into the mirror itself, and into herself. Self-analyzing and pensive, this woman is apprehensive with her inner self, her demoralization, and her secrets. Her body is not interpreted as beautiful in the piece. Picasso wanted to demonstrate that perception can alter how everything is viewed. All in all, what the viewer sees may be entirely different to what Picasso sees or is trying to convey, because of varying perspectives/experiences.

01 April 2020

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