picasso & chicago

cenoturk  asked:

I am genuinely curious, not trying to be difficult or sarcastic, how do you see baboon? I don't see much of anything specific, but i often don't see things that aren't blatantly obvious in art.

Not at all, I like talking about art history! I hope it’s okay that I’m posting this publicly but imma give a little art lecture :D IDK if you were looking at the icon or if you googled the original image, but this is the original:

You can see the shape a little better than the icon, which honestly doesn’t look like much unless you’re familiar with the original, so don’t feel bad if the icon just looks like random shapes. :D 

Picasso deliberately left the sculpture untitled and never said what it was; it was simply his gift to Chicago (actually a commission by the mayor). It’s been popularly interpreted as a lion, a baboon, an afghan dog, or a portrait of a woman, usually his favorite model at the time, Lydia Corbett (less popular interpretations include a bird, a demon, or “that should’ve been a statue of [insert famous Cubs/White Sox player here]”).

I see a baboon – I’ve always seen a baboon – in two key features: the two small circles at the base of the top-piece, which together resembles a baboon’s snout and nostrils, and the long thin pipes leading from the front-piece to the rear arch, which to me look like the rills on either side of the muzzle, the blue bits in this image: 

Those same pipes, along with the rear arch, appear to some people as the mane of a lion, or as the ruff around the face of an afghan dog, the kind Picasso kept as pets. 

Picasso’s favorite model at the time, Lydia Corbett, did have a very long face with cheekbones that sloped up and back much like the pipes do, and her hair framed her face the way the arch of the backpiece does. His other work surrounding her does have the characteristic sloping lines leading up to an arch; the negative space within the arch could be seen to represent the shape of the ponytail. This is Corbett posing with a portrait of herself: 

You can see how the face is slightly displaced in that image, and in the sculpture, if it is of Corbett, the face is also displaced – the lines leading down from the arch should hit the face, if they’re her hair and ponytail, but instead they hit a narrow silhouette, with the face upraised above it. On the one hand this suggests that the face emerges from the lines and arch like an animal’s would from a mane – face above, mane behind, rather than face below, hair pulled back and up. But on the other hand, the displacement of faces and features is a major theme in Picasso’s work, and this allows the face to be upraised while still preserving the sweep of the hair and the framing shape. 

So I think there’s a case to be made for several different interpretations.

But I will also insist to my dying day that it is a baboon. :D 


Thomas O'Gorman:

“Hier in Chicago war man immer bereit, sich weiterzuentwickeln. Besonders bei der Stadtplanung. Das hat auch Picasso getan. Auf vielerlei Weise hatten er und die Stadt die gleiche Seele. Die hatten keine Angst vor dem, was vor ihnen lag. Sie haben es angepackt. Wenn es sich am Ende zu einem Ganzen zusammenfügt, ergibt es totalen Sinn. Picasso ist der perfekte Maler für Chicago.”