Pablo Picasso

Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper

1913

On display at Tate Modern

Original title
Guitare, journal, verre et bouteille
Medium
Printed papers and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 467 x 625 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1961
Reference
T00414

Summary

Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper is a small papier collé by Pablo Picasso, produced in 1913. It depicts a series of objects and paper fragments clustered on a table, the oval edge of which has been loosely drawn in the lower right of the composition. The abstracted forms of a guitar, glass and bottle of wine cut from white, grey and black coloured papers are juxtaposed with drawn lines indicating other elements of each object’s shape. The word ‘Vieux’, handwritten on the bottle’s neck, is partly obscured by, and overlaps, the black forms. Two pieces cut from the same newspaper Le Figaro – including the masthead – are pasted at right-angles towards the centre. Fragments of two embroidery transfer motifs extend the arrangement towards the edges of the paper. The objects are shown from several perspectives: while the guitar and table appear to be seen from above; the bottle and glass are shown from the side. The light blue support is faded and its edges are irregular.

The work was made in 1913 either in Céret in the French Pyrenees or in Picasso’s new studio on boulevard Raspail in Montparnasse, Paris, where he produced numerous other paper collage pieces with the artist Georges Braque between 1912 and 1913. This period marked a departure for both artists from their experiments with cubist painting. While Braque used imitation wood-grain paper in his images, Picasso introduced newspaper into his. In Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper abstracted elements are brought together to form a harmonious still life, although the text on the largest newspaper fragment stands out. According to art historian Brandon Taylor, by early 1913 Picasso ‘had become adept at sprinkling his papier collés with references to all kinds of great and small events – wars and catastrophes on a global scale right down to the petty but heart-rending fait divers’ (Taylor 2004, p.20). The citation of particular events and their rearrangement in the papier collés could be seen as an attempt by the artist to represent the realities of the modern city through a new medium. However, the use of ‘real’ fragments of paper extended the language of cubism and led to images that were ‘not only to be conceptual recreations of reality but also to be in themselves additions to that reality’ (Douglas Cooper, The Cubist Epoch, London 1994, p.183). Picasso stated that the purpose of the alternate realities offered by the papier collé medium was:

To give the idea that different textures can enter into a composition to become the reality in the painting that competes with the reality in nature. We tried to get rid of ‘trompe l’oeil’ to find a ‘trompe l’espirit’… If a piece of newspaper can become a bottle, that gives us something to think about in connection with both newspapers and bottles, too. This displaced object has entered a universe for which it was not made and where it retains, in a measure, its strangeness. And this strangeness was what we wanted to make people think about because we were quite aware that the world was becoming very strange and not exactly reassuring.
(Quoted in Marjorie Perloff, Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre and the Language of Rapture, London 2003, p.44.)

In October 1912 Picasso wrote to Braque: ‘I am in the process of reimagining a guitar’ (quoted in Taylor 2004, p.20). Viewed in this context Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper is an experimental piece, aiding visual and material explorations of everyday objects. As art historian Robert Rosenblum has demonstrated this work belongs to a group of closely linked papier collés produced in spring 1913 (Rosenblum 1971, p.605). Guitar, Wineglass, Bottle of Vieux Marc 1913 (Musée Picasso, Paris), for example, is strikingly similar to Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper in composition. Images such as this mark the transition from analytical cubism – which primarily consisted of paintings that broke up a single view into a fragmentary composite – to synthetic cubism, which saw artists layering fragments of paper and objects to represent space in a two-dimensional picture. Despite these differences, vestiges of analytic cubism remain in the use of text and the muted palette. Picasso and Braque’s collages have conceptually and stylistically influenced artists working in movements such as futurism, surrealism and pop art, and as Taylor writes ‘cubist papier collé … would become international modernism’s most elegant and fertile style’ (Taylor 2004, p.21).

Further reading
Robert Rosenblum, ‘Picasso and the Coronation of Alexander III’, Burlington Magazine, vol.113, no.828, October 1971, pp.604–8, reproduced p.607.
Christine Poggi, In Defiance of Painting: Cubism, Futurism, and the Invention of Collage, New Haven 1992.
Brandon Taylor, Collage: The Making of Modern Art, London 2004.

Jo Kear
March 2016

Supported by Christie’s.

Display caption

Picasso first began to make collages in 1912. The use of cut papers, and in particular clippings from newspapers, seemed a natural extension of his earlier experiments with stencilled lettering. Whereas his earlier cubist works had involved deconstructing objects into their component parts, works like this one sought to construct a unified composition from abstracted fragments of the objects depicted. The newspaper in this work may have been chosen for its faded colour, since it was already nearly thirty years old when Picasso used it.

Gallery label, January 2016

Catalogue entry

Pablo Picasso 1881-1973

T00414 Guitare, Journal, Verre et Bouteille (Guitar, Newspaper, Wine-glass and Bottle) 1913

Inscribed 'Picasso' on the back
Papier collé and pen and ink on blue paper, measurements slightly irregular, 18 3/8 x 24 5/8 (46.5 x 62.5)
Purchased from Berggruen et Cie through the Princesse de Broglie and the Contemporary Art Establishment, Vaduz (Picasso Purchase Fund and Grant-in-Aid) 1961
Prov: Pierre Gaut (purchased from the artist during the Second World War); with Berggruen, Paris
Lit: Christian Zervos, Pablo Picasso (Paris 1942), Vol.2A, No.335, repr. pl.160 as 'Guitare, Verre et Bouteille' 1912, the property of the artist; Robert Rosenblum, 'Picasso and the Coronation of Alexander III: a Note on the Dating of some Papiers Collés' in Burlington Magazine, CXIII, 1971, pp.604-6, repr. p.607; Pierre Daix and Joan Rosselet, Picasso: The Cubist Years 1907-1916 (London 1979), No.604, p.305, repr. pp.149 and 305

This papier collé, which is on a blue background, is said by Zervos to have been made at Céret in the spring of 1912. However it is now generally agreed that Picasso did not begin to make papiers collés until May 1912, at the earliest. Robert Rosenblum has shown that this particular still life is one of a small group of inter-related papiers collés which can be assigned on internal evidence to the spring of 1913, mainly by the dates of some of the newspaper clippings used in the collage. The cutting in this case was taken not from a contemporary newspaper but from the front page of the Figaro of 28 May 1883. Another clipping from the same old issue of the Figaro appears in a papier collé 'Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Newspaper' now in the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf. The Düsseldorf work in turn was evidently done about the same time as a papier collé 'Guitar and Newspaper' in the collection of the late Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, which incorporates a newspaper clipping dated 31 March 1913 which serves as a terminus post quem; the two works are very close in style and even share the same brown-and-tan decorative paper. Rosenblum has suggested that Picasso's choice of an issue of the Figaro some thirty years old may have been inspired by the fact that the page in question carried an account of the coronation in Moscow of Czar Alexander III; and that the spring of 1913 was the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the Romanov dynasty, the celebration of which was a topic of great international interest at the time.

An examination of the edges of this work, where the paper was protected by the mount, shows that the blue paper has faded slightly. The newspaper clipping was probably rather brown by the time Picasso used it, but has since darkened further.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.595-6, reproduced p.595


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