February 10, 2017, by Matt Davies
Inspiring Slides: Picasso’s Le Guéridon (The Pedestal Table) by Jamie Shakespeare.
This week we introduce the first in our new Inspiring Slides series. It was written by DHC student volunteer Jamie Shakespeare who is an MA student from the English department and has been volunteering in DHC since November 2016. He has been working on the ISYP digitisation project which -by pure coincidence -we will be reporting on in next week’s blog.
Following a good rummage through the slide collection in DHC Jamie was inspired to find out more about Pablo Picasso’s Le Guéridon, 1913-14, Kunstmuseum Basel and presents his subsequent research below.
The History of A Slide: Le Guéridon (The Pedestal Table) – 1913/1914.
Pablo Picasso’s ‘Le Guéridon, The Pedestal Table’ (sometimes referred to as ‘The Small Table’, as in the DHC’s slide collection), was produced between 1913 and 1914. (a digital version of the image and info can be found here) In his mid 30s, Picasso had moved beyond a more youthful series of imitations, adaptations and interpretations of previous forms to become one of the pioneers of cubism alongside Georges Braque. ‘The Pedestal Table’ was produced at a point when both Braque and Picasso were shaping a style now known as synthetic cubism, which first became prominent around 1912. Whilst cubism more generally was concerned with new views and representations of reality, particularly through the breakdown of forms and spaces into geometric shapes, synthetic cubism demonstrated a particular interest in the compression of any sense of three-dimensional space. Yet more importantly, the use of papier collé and collage more generally by Picasso and Braque complicated the relationship between art and reality, and indicated a specific interest in textures, surface and patterning, thus moving beyond the earlier stages of cubism known as ‘analytical cubism’.
‘The Pedestal Table’ reveals these developed interests, and yet exemplifies the gradual evolution of cubist styles, possessing many of the elements integral to the movement between 1909 and 1912. The use of oil on canvas, the absence of any intense colour and the deconstructed yet identifiable object of focus all evoke a sense of Picasso’s earlier works, such as ‘Fernande’. However, the use of newspaper residue, and the imitation of collage – established through the dull colours, combination of horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, and lack of empty space in the 130 x 89 cm canvas– are both radical departures from the style of analytical cubism, and contribute to the distinct sense of disorder and ephemerality within the painting.
Yet whilst such interpretations remain ambiguous, the painting’s history does not. After its creation, ‘The Pedestal Table’ found its way into the hands of the Swiss banker and prominent collector Raoul Albert La Roche. An extensive collector of both Purist and Cubist creations, and a native of Basel, La Roche eventually offered the painting to the Kunstmuseum Basel in 1952, as part of a series of donations throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The painting has remained a part of their collection ever since, and besides being digitized as part of the museum’s online collection, little else of note has befallen it. Due to this this relative inertness within the art world, and perhaps its consequent lack of renown, ‘The Pedestal Table’ has unfortunately received little public or critical attention, and as such, information on the painting, or even high-quality images of it, remain sparse.
Thus the DHC’s slide of the painting remains of distinct value for students and tutors wishing to observe the painting in more detail, and to gain a greater sense of Picasso’s oeuvre and cubist output. Originally Art History lecturers used the slide as a teaching aid, perhaps drawing comparison with other images using the dual projectors that were commonplace in lecture theatres. As such – given the current accessibility of the painting, the lack of individual analysis, and the vast range of Picasso pieces – the slide collection remains a useful educational tool, presenting a high quality image of the slide as part of a ready-made selection of various Picasso pieces, often with enhanced ‘details’ that facilitate close analysis.
If you would like to see your work published on this blog -and it may take any form- prose, poetry, artwork, photography… -you can find full details of the Inspiring Slides competition here