Guitars with Many Strings: The Meanings of Music in Picassoʼs Early Work 1900-1914

Michelle Ania Kaczmarek

This thesis sets out to explore the use of musical references in Picassoʼs art. Noting that Picasso had no explicit connections to musical practice himself, the study examines the ways in which music appears in the artistʼs work and critically assesses explanations for its dominance and consistency as a subject in Cubist art. The study focuses on Picassoʼs Cubist output between the years 1900 and 1914 but revolves around a central series of six papiers collés from the second half of 1912, into which Picasso incorporates fragments of sheet music. The relevance of the sheet music used is therefore taken up as a key line of investigation, as is the symbolism of the guitar, which dominates the subject matter of these works. Chapter One examines the use of musical imagery throughout art history.

The role in art of the guitarʼs predecessors, particularly the lute, provide a solid foundation of symbolism which, it will be argued, Picasso draws upon through his use of the guitar. Chapter Two develops this argument with regards to gender, examining the idea that the guitar is conflated with the image of the woman in Picassoʼs work. An alternative argument is explored, pursuing the guitarʼs links with Spain to argue that it functions as a symbol of national identity for Picasso, before the focus moves to the sheet music papiers collés. A closer examination of the sheet music results in an exploration of Picassoʼs connections to the Parisian cabaret scene. In the final chapter the study will conclude by presenting the view that, despite their status as revolutionary experiments in formal innovation, the series of six papiers collés can in fact be interpreted as works that express nostalgia and vanitas, representing Picassoʼs paradoxical relationship with tradition.

Guitars with Many Strings: The Meanings of Music in Picassoʼs Early Work 1900-1914

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