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).
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.
Supported by Christie’s.