Guitar marks a transition in Pablo Picasso’s cubist period. From 1907 to 1914, Picasso and George Braque worked on establishing and developing the cubist idiom in close contact with each other, and in spring 1912 they began a new phase when Braque launched the idea of using unconventional tools to imitate a variety of textures. It didn’t take long before “foreign elements” started being incorporated in their pictures, and in spring 1912 Picasso created what has since been regarded as the very first collage. At the same time they abandoned the ascetic colour schemes that typified early cubism, where shades of brown and grey dominated. A variety of colours were thenceforth introduced, in particular pastels such as pink, light blue, and pistachio green.
At the heart of Guitar is a form of imitated wood. The guitar alluded to in the title of the work is fragmented, and the shapes have been distributed over several planes in the manner of cubism. Optical effects play a key role, with ambiguous spatiality, overlapping, and transparent planes creating an object that is difficult to identity. What we perceive as the foreground and background varies.
A particularly original element of this painting is its oval shape, a form it shares in common with the first collage Picasso created only a few months earlier. In the following two years Picasso made over 100 collages. He did not forsake painting, however, and his experimentation with textures, shapes, materials, and colours took place in a constant interchange between painting and collage.
Text: Vibeke Waallann Hansen
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0