The history of art shows that the motives and techniques of the previous periods can be easily forgotten or not recognized, and thus be unable to deliver the current moods of the society. The change in painting style has been particularly frequent in the 20th century. The comparison of the works of Pablo Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein demonstrates that just in 30 years the artists have switched from creating deep meanings and complicated mixture of colors picture to simple ones, drawn with a few lines and the minim use of color.
Pablo Picasso, a Spanish artist of the modern period, is popular for his innovative forms and methods of painting. His art depicts the triumphs, the tragedies and the endless search for a man of the 20th century for answers to the questions of life. There was a separate wall in a hall with works of modernist painters for his Girl Before a Mirror. It was a correct decision to put this picture apart from others as it prevents from distraction by the other works. The broad dark framework marks the boundaries, which is also very helpful, since the painting is full of different bright colors, which makes it hard to focus. The picture itself is prominent and makes a strong impression from the first sight. The colors are contrasting, the strokes are broad, and there is a thick layer paint at some places, which shows that the artist must have made these changes while working.
Although Picasso is a cubist, he has worked in different styles throughout his life. A Girl before a Mirror is one of his late works. During the period between 1925 and 1932, he became close to the representatives of the surrealist movement. In addition, Marie-Therese Walter, a young French girl, appeared in his life and eventually became his muse and lover, and brought dreamy eroticism to his works (Hughes). These factors forced the change in Picasso's style, and he began to paint in a surrealist style, the main features of which are the primacy of subconscious, the denial of any standards, a reference to ideas of life and death and erotic motifs. A Girl before a Mirror created in 1932 embodies all these ideas, which demonstrates complicated relations of a girl with her inner self, represented by her reflection.
This painting is one of the numerous portraits of Marie-Therese Walter. Usually, she appears in pictures dreamy, calm or sleeping, but this representation gives an extraordinary image of Picasso's mistress. Here she looks deeply into her reflection in the mirror, which shows more than just an exact picture. The difference between the girl and her reflection reveals in an unusual way – all the bright colors of her figure the mirror appear to be dark and create a mystical image of her. The face of the girl consists of the two contrast halves. One side is a profile of her face colored in light pink; the head has the white halo, and her fair hair look soft and smooth. The other half, drawn from the front with more deep colors of yellow and red, brings associations with a more mature woman, who was applying make-up on her face. The closer the girl is to her reflection; the more intense are the colors of her body.
The hands of Marie-Therese are near the mirror, and she seems to be very interested in her reflection by wanting to touch the image she sees, the image that attracts and scares at the same time. The vision of the girl in the mirror totally changes her appearance and reveals her inner nature. The figure surrounded by, colorful spots seems sad; the face and the body are under distortion, the orange semicircle around her red eye may symbolize a tear caused by fear or pain, the background has blue and black colors. The converted into the mirror original image of Walter presents an entirely different and mature woman.
The painting clearly shows the author's intention to demonstrate the conflict and the contrast of the two pictures of Marie-Therese, which he did with the help of the color spectrum. On the one hand, we see a pure and innocent girl, on the other hand, a woman that she either already has or only expects to become shortly and the thought what will happen to her body scares her. A mirror can also serve as the reminder of mortality (Benford).
There are many versions of what the reflection means to the girl, who looks at it. Some people believe that through this picture Picasso wanted to show both the physical appearance and the psychological image of his mistress (Benford). The vast green spot on the forehead of the reflection of the girl in the mirror that contrasts the red part of her face, perhaps, represents her inner world, her thoughts or her soul.
The other version states that the fact that the girl reaches her hands to the image in the mirror shows her vanity, because this gesture reminds of the embrace. When she looks at the reflection, she sees only herself being perfect, and although the image in the mirror is dark and melancholic, Marie-Therese cannot see it; she deceives herself and does not notice the truth. It is also possible that the reflection represents her femininity and sexuality and by embracing the mirror, she transforms into a sensual woman.
It is possible that the subject matter of A Girl before a Mirror reflect psychological and existential ideas and the desire to depict the true nature and the real sense and meaning of objects that were dominant in the culture of the first half of the 20th century. The deep symbolism of the picture shows that Picasso tried to understand and explain different aspects of a human soul. Although the idea of the duality of the person of the painting is evident, the real meaning of the reflection in the mirror at his picture, perhaps, will remain undiscovered. Picasso's works were always a challenge for the public, and A Girl before a Mirror was not an exception. Even today, its bright and contrast colors combined with a complicated motif evokes mixed feelings of the spectators. Regardless of that, even the opposed critics acknowledge his works as masterpieces.
Girl with Ball by Roy Lichtenstein represents the pop-art movement of the 1950s-1960s. The drawing visitors can find in the hall around other works of the artist. It is in a wooden frame, which totally ruins Lichtenstein's modern style. The picture hangs on the wall on the level of the eyes of the spectators. Moreover, its size creates a feeling that you see a real girl standing in front of you. The place is light, which allows enjoying the contrasting colors of this piece of the art.
The primary goal of the popular art was to confront abstract art, which was too elitist and complicated with the transformation of promotional products and objects of mass culture. It is the main feature of Lichtenstein's comic-strip style. His Girl with Ball was inspired by the advertisement of a resort, published in several newspapers in New York (Waldman 55). As opposed to Picasso's work, the simplicity of lines, the minimum use of colors, and the absence of details can characterize this technically and semantically complicated painting.
The picture shows a girl in a swimming suit holding a ball above her head. However, her role in the image is to bring the idea of youth and happiness reached by wealth and fortune, which is entirely different from the role of Picasso's girl, who stood for the complexity of human nature. Thus, Lichtenstein's work shows the shift of values in society. The figure of a girl appears in the center and takes almost all the space of the picture, perhaps, to draw more attention to her and to stress that she is the subject matter of this image. The transformation of the original photographic advertisement appears with simplification of the lines. The artist emphasized the two-dimensional form of the picture by drawing the broad outline of the figure and other objects with black paint. The vertical alteration of red and white colors of girl's ball and mouth with dark blue and white colors of her swimming suit and her hair create a harmonious combination. The bright yellow background, which evokes the associations with sand together with white waves of the schematically depicted sea and girl's streaming in the wind hair, make the simple idea of having fun at the beach clear and understandable.
Lichtenstein stressed that the stories he chose for his pictures were the archetypes of the genre for him. The goal of his artworks was to modify those stories to reach a classical form, by making them timeless and impersonal (Osterwold 184). Lichtenstein denied that his works are simply "social commentary" only because he used the motifs of everyday life for his pictures or, as in the case of Girl with Ball, an advertisement. With his works, he wanted to deliver the reality, the main ideas, the subject matter, the moods and the expectations of his time, while Picasso's art concentrated more on the inner nature of particular objects or people.
Lichtenstein in one of the interviews stated that only the critical intelligence of his time could separate the classical picture of the previous period from modern art; for him, the real purpose of his pictures was to deliver the mythological status of the "hot dog" (Osterwold 184). With the Girl with Ball, the author wanted to cultivate youth and happiness, the desire for an entertaining and vibrant life full of joys and to show that even a picture from some advertisement can be a source of eternal values.
Girl with Ball describes the typical woman of those years: a new version of pin-up movies stars like Betty Grable and thus, a representation of an ideal glamorous woman, which naturally follows the images of European and American models of the previous decades (Waldman 55). This picture is entirely different from Picasso's complicated psychological portrait. The advertisement was a good source for Lichtenstein since that image showed understandable and very familiar to the viewers pictures of girls in swimming suits, which were very popular at that time (Waldman 55).
This piece of art also delivers the values of the American postwar society different from the European. It depicts that girl supports the idea of the American Dream and tells the story of the success revealing that wealth and material comfort were very significant values of that time. She is like "Miss Liberty brandishing her torch" (Waldman 55). Regardless of the number of meanings, discovered in this work, by 1961, Lichtenstein's paintings had fewer admirers; people accused him of copying, the lack of original ideas and banality. Only later critics managed to understand the value and significance of his works.
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The comparison of the works of the two great representatives of the modern art shows that the profound meaning artists can transmit through a painting with no difference of used techniques. Lichtenstein's Girl has the same value and is capable of delivering the equal semantic load as Picasso's although they speak for entirely different periods and views. The analysis of these two works also shows how the image of a woman has changed with time. From being dark and mystical, with the deep and complicated inner world in Picasso's picture of the beginning of the 20th century, a girl after about 30 years has become a mere element of advertising and marketing, a mean to attract attention to the product. Only this proves that art is the mirror of the social life. Thus, the work of every period is precious since it can help understand the values of the society of the particular epoch.