Pablo Picasso- Guernica & √5: Part II

Pablo Picasso- Guernica & √5: Part II

“The laws of composition are never new, they are always someone else’s.”

– Pablo Picasso

Now we’ll take a look at both paintings by Rubens* and Picasso. Do you see the narrative relationships?

Diagrams 1 & 2

Diagram 1: Rubens
Diagram 2: Picasso

Rubens ‘Consequences of War’ is close to the ϕ ratio. Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, at 349 x 776cm or 11.5’ x 25.5’,  is a √5. It may help to look at a photograph of the first stage of ‘Guernica’. Diagram 3

Diagram 3

Do you see the construction lines? Diagram 4

Diagram 4

Now lets look at the design…

Diagram 5
Diagram 6
Diagram 7
Diagram 8
Diagram 9
Diagram 10

As noted earlier, ‘Guernica’ is one of the most analyzed works of art. Picasso did dozens of preparatory sketches and the composition changed throughout the execution. He studied the hand of the fallen warrior many times.

“This final sketch fo a detail of ‘Guernica’ establishes the important starting point in the lower left corner of the mural. The hand of the warrior also marks the corner at the base of the central composition triangle.** In the drawing Diagram 11 we see a right hand, enlivened by the tension arising from the irregular spacing of the fingers, the bending of the thumb, the muscular squeezing within the palm…

– Rudolf Arnheim, ‘Picasso’s Guernica: The Genesis of a Painting’

Diagram 11

And a view from one of the ‘Guernica’ progress shots.

Diagram 12

In the end he settled on this…

Diagram 11

… continued- The hand in the mural is probably also a right hand, attached to the left arm, but this paradox is hardly apparent since the hand now approaches the shape of a regular star pattern. It approaches geometry, just as the profile curve or shape of the eyes do in the head of the warrior, to whom the hand belongs. In the mural, the fingers will be spaced more regularly, the palm will be more nearly a simple polygon, and the internal lines will cease to be realistic grooves and instead suggest the shape of an ornament. Stable and solid, this starlike patter will appropriate for the character of the mural’s left wing, the wing of the bull, just as its opposite number, the twisted foot, by the way, there will be another variation of a theme: the concentrated but intensely dynamic torch of the bull’s torch on the left will correspond to the linings of the spreading but mechanically shaped flames on the right.”

Rudolf Arnheim, ‘Picasso’s Guernica: The Genesis of a Painting’

Coincidence or nod to Da Vinci?***

*This image is reversed from the original to show narrative relationships.

**As noted above there’s no shortage of composition analysis for ‘Guernica’. Most of them are simple overlays of organizational elements that do not relate back to the over all format of the painting. Similar to the silly ϕ diarams in Christie’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ catalogue.

***Yet another “We’ll get to it”.