The painting, Girl Before a Mirror, by Pablo Picasso was created in March 1932. A woman is seen standing and she expands an arm across the image towards a mirror to touch her reflection. The woman and the mirror symmetrically oppress almost the entire canvas and centrally imposes as the vertical axis of the painting. Picasso literally connects the two sides together through the reaching motion to emphasize a bond between the woman and her mirror image. To stress this, Picasso includes red-stripes originating at the woman’s chest and spreads to her fingertips in the center of the painting, promoting easy flow and unity. The piece is absorbed by a variety of shapes, which constructs the essence of the woman’s body and her reflection. The shapes provide the woman with curves, particularly around the abdomen area. During this time, Picasso’s paintings mostly revolved around his mistress, Marie Therese Walter, who may have become pregnant with his child, hence the roundness of the woman’s figure. Otherwise, this painting was created during Picasso’s Cubist period where he initiated a new practice by altering appearances of all subjects, objects and people, opposed to what was generally expected. He did so through the use of incorporating geometric shapes, significant patterns, and contrasting colors in his art unrealistically and whimsically. These shapes are even prominent in the background that is usually placed as a backdrop, but in this case it is used as a metaphor for Picasso himself and allows the background to assist the main subject and pop as a focal point.
The compositional strategy is based on symmetrical balance, in which the woman is on the left and her mirror image is on the right. The symmetry essentially brings focus to the ways that the two sides are not alike. In fact, the girl’s face shown in the mirror does not relate to the existing characteristics. Picasso also fulfills a balance of both warm and cool colors. Warm colors are primarily used on the woman, while cool colors are primarily used on her mirror image. He was mostly interested in captivating a human body and rendering it into a variety of colors, shapes, and patterns that implements a deeper meaning. The viewer begins by spotting familiar traits, such as a face or arm. The other features, such as hands or hair, that are recreated and constructed by simplified and geometric shapes, eventually become more present and the outline of a mirror is recognizable. The moment of detection is very stimulating when the viewer realizes that the woman is looking at herself in the mirror and the mirror is expressing something altered from reality. It could be that she is sad or upset, doesn’t like what she sees, or that the mirror is presenting her true emotions. Executing a direct understanding of the artwork, leads to an interpretation of how you came to this conclusion.
When you look closely at the image, you can interpret many distinctive symbols that may represent different meanings throughout the artwork. The face is painted in a way that shows both the frontal and profile views of the woman. The woman’s face is divided into two parts. The right side appears to be yellow and bright like the sun, representing beauty and daylight. The colors have been given to enhance the attraction of the woman, as her pink-flesh tone is smooth with a clear complexion. One may even describe her as dolled up with make-up. Knowing that she was Picasso’s mistress, a viewer may also interpret the bright colors as the happy times the two spent together.
However, the woman’s reflection represents the opposing version of how she views herself. The colors used here are much darker. On the right side of the reflection’s face her complexion is now textured and imperfect, almost as if it is fading. When the woman takes off her concealment of make-up, she is left to be increasingly exposed or vulnerable. Her eyes are depressed as they no longer have pupils, but are featured only as brown and orange specs. On the left side of the reflection’s face, the bright colors are removed, as well as the physical features of lips, an eyebrow, and other details. The subtraction of characteristics results in the feeling that there is a sense of hate or unhappiness, referencing to the night.
The focus of the painting is contemplation on female pride and the fear of aging. In one instance, the painting communicates a contradiction between the perceptions of self-identity with the identity that others acknowledge. However, it could also be assumed that when the woman gazes at herself in the mirror, she visualizes herself as an old woman, as suggested by the discoloration of her forehead and the distortion of body parts. The woman is either in distress of losing her youth or is self-conscious about all the imperfections and weaknesses others do not recognize.
Possibly the identity we classify ourselves with differs from others, simply for the fact that identity is built through a multitude of surfaces. It is a rare occurrence that the inner surface constitutes the same as the outer surface. In other words, what we allow people to see is hardly a reflection of our true identity. Our inner character may be hiding some sort of secret or affliction from the world, because being vulnerable is often difficult. Just as the painting is depicting, the artificial exterior, such as forcing a smile or putting on make-up, is used to disguise a person’s true contents. Due to the fact that other individuals cannot physically see beneath the outer surface, what meets the eye is the only basis for judgment. In conclusions, according to the representations in Pablo Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror, only the mirror knows all and traps the actualities of identification one decides to shield or hide from the public eye.
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