PICASSO'S DORA MAAR SEATED—or, FULL
FACE AND PROFILE:
HOW DO THEY SHOW THE SELF?
I have come to care very
much for this painting by Pablo Picasso titled Dora Maar Seated.
Dora Maar was a photographer and took photographs of Picasso's work, including
his Guernica. Together she and Picasso studied printing with Man
Ray, who, in 1936, took this photograph of her:
Man Ray uses her black velvet
sleeve to bring out the mystery and abstraction in the beautiful face of
Dora Maar. Picasso goes even further in his 1937 painting in showing that
the world is a part of this woman he cared for.
I have learned from Eli Siegel
and Aesthetic Realism that art makes a one of the very opposites that we
are trying to put together, and so, Art
Answers the Questions of Our Lives. A beginning question in my
life that I am learning more about through studying this painting is one
Mr. Siegel asked me in an Aesthetic Realism lesson in 1971. Mr. Siegel
saw that while I had many interests, I did not feel like an integrity because
I felt as people often do, that the person who thought about the world
outside myself, the person who had studied anthropology, was not the same
as the person who thought about herself. He asked me: "Can we make a coherence
out of our attitudes?" I had not thought so. The study of Aesthetic Realism
has made it possible for me now to answer Yes we can!
It is likely Dora Maar could
feel, as I did, like a different person looking at herself than she did
looking at the world, but Picasso, as he depicts her simultaneously facing
us, and looking within, shows a coherence among various attitudes in Dora
Maar, and that is one reason I feel this portrait is so kind.
is presented both profile and full face. Then, one eye is shown looking
inward, toward herself. The eyelashes of this eye are painted to emphasize
this inward direction, yet the pupil looks straight out. The other eye,
which Picasso has surprisingly painted red, looks out at the world and
us; while the red shows intensity, the curves and symmetry of this eye
give it serenity.
Picasso was the first painter
to show two aspects of a face in this form, simultaneously, and it has
an important meaning for our lives. In Self and World, Mr. Siegel
writes about profile and full face in relation to the self of every person:
In keeping with
notions that have been present all through history, the human being does
have two sides, just as he has a profile and a full face. These two sides,
it is true, make up a one; yet in the same way as you get a different impression
from the side view of a face from that got from a full view, so, though
these two sides of self make up a one, they can have different effects.
I've learned from Aesthetic
Realism that when we please ourselves by thinking of ourselves only as
apart from reality as a whole we have to feel ashamed because we have
separated ourselves from the world we came from.
Whether one side of self
or the other is in play, the purpose is, in a sense, the same. A person
is trying to please himself. But one side of a person wishes to please
himself by thinking of himself as apart from reality as a whole; the other
side wishes to see the person as related to, and part of all reality.
Mr. Siegel asked me in the lesson of 1971: "Do you see the world as that which expresses you or
as a foreign body?" I said I see it as a foreign body. In Dora Maar
Seated, Picasso shows the world is that which expresses a person. The
colors of the world: white, yellow, red, blue, green, pink and black are
all in her face. A person and the world are friendly. In the cheek, a delicate
pink apple with its small green leaf under the eye surprises us. And we
can see a small yellow lemon within the apple - which
I think represents the opposites of sweet and sour that can be in a woman.
There is a logic here that allows us to accept this "foreign body" as the
cheek just as we accept the different views, profile and full face, as
The colors and forms of the
body also surprise us. It is difficult to distinguish between the chair
and Dora Maar. Her arms are just as black and flat as the chair's, and
they have the same shape. This is playful and also deeply true. The back
of her chair and Dora Maar's torso form one black rectangle with a triangle
at its base. The red triangular shape is her red plaid skirt. Arising from
the point of the triangle, are radiating black lines which look like a
bouquet in front of and within the abstract shapes which are her breasts.
These purple and green forms are a relation of sphere and angle. They represent
the femininity of this woman as lush, full and also strict and thoughtful.
We see this also in the way
her sharp red-painted nails are placed against the soft curve of her cheek.
I think Picasso wanted to depict in this way the lively desire in a woman
to look beautiful and to be thoughtfully self-critical at the same time.
The study of Aesthetic Realism
is enabling me to see the world as that which expresses me, and to see
that this world, like myself, is an aesthetic oneness of opposites
- a world I can honestly like.
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