The Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal is a masterpiece by Pablo Picasso and a part of his famous Blue Period collection. During this period, Picasso focused on emotional pieces that seemed to reflect his current state of mind. His life was full of gloom and despair, and he even fell into depression for a while. This is why most of the Blue Period pieces are painted in a monochromatic color palette, featuring the color blue in various shades and hues. Generally, the when it comes to Picasso’s paintings, this period is very sad. The Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal is not different in this case. This particular painting was created in 1903, and it shows the characteristic blue palette and an element of somberness in its demeanor (Wye 93). The painting seems to emanate desolation and despair, or even loneliness if one may see it that way. There are two people in the portrait, probably a couple but neither looks at the other. Their faces also show some level of isolation from their setting. It can be appreciated that the circumstances in which Picasso knew Sebastian Juner Vidal are rather unclear. Thus, it cannot be stated that the iconography of the portrait is in any way related to the personality of the person in the portrait. The fact that this portrait is a part of the Blue Period collection can be used to imply that it is simply an expression of the artist’s state of mind at the time of creating the painting in question. During my visit in Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), I picked a painting titled Portrait of Sebastian Juner by Pablo Picasso. In this report, I will focus on Pablo Picasso and his painting, Portrait of Sebastian Juner, to respond to a number of questions regarding this piece of art.
The Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal is a painting showing two individuals sharing a table at a location that could be considered as a restaurant. However, Sebastian Juner Vidal and his female companion are seated next to each other instead of facing each other. It seems that they are not enticed by the need to look at each other. Their surroundings are also rather dark and gloomy, although they could simply imply the couple’s mood. Another remarkable aspect of this work’s iconography would be the obvious absences of bright colors, except for the brooch in the woman’s hair. Everything in the portrait is gloomy and depressing, from the background to the faces of the subjects and even their clothing. In this painting, Picasso seems to have intended to display a situation that is full of gloom and despair. The woman in the portrait seems displeased. It could be that the woman is upset by the man’s presence, by something he has said just before the moment depicted on the canvas, or even by their relationship. Her face indicates some level of anger or disappointment, and she is far from smiling. On the other hand, the has a knowing and confident look that is directed towards the audience. He seems to be communicating his thoughts or fears to the viewer, and in some way, he also seems detached from the scene. He could have drifted off into his thoughts, leaving his companion alone in the present. This generally shows that there is an undeniable rift between the two people shown in this portrait. The type of iconography projected in painting belongs to the category of iconography covered in class. The only difference that is in this painting, Picasso applied subtle forms of art to exude the meaning.
How Formal Elements were Used
The formal elements commonly used by artists include space and color. In the Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal, each of these elements is used symbolically to emphasize a different aspect of the artist’s expressions. Picasso was specific about using a monochromatic color palette in his Blue Period to limit the mood of the painting. In this portrait, he maintains the trend with only a small dash of lively color on the woman’s hair. The monochromatic palette is sufficiently representative of the mood in the painting. There does not seem to be much excitement or even affection between the couple. The color blue, as used in this painting, represents high level of sadness and desolation. The fact that the artist focuses on a dark palette makes the painting even sadder and gloomier. The darkness in this case is not only disturbing but also suffocating in many contexts. Here, Picasso seems to have tried to show the doom that this couple faces based on their attitude or feelings towards each other. They were both cold, and for a couple, it means that they have no future together.
In terms of space, it can be noted that the couple is seated at a very small table and they are backed up against the wall. Here, they do not have much room. As with the rest of the Blue Period paintings, the limited space here is an expression of the limitations imposed on people by the social constructs, within which they had to live. Thus, this couple is restricted, whether by choice or otherwise. It could imply that they were unhappy together but they had to remain together in order to save face. It could also mean that they had to be at the restaurant despite not wanting to be there together for one reason or another. Either way, the artist here is able to show that the couple is crammed into a small space.
Like most of Picasso’s paintings, the Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal is an oil on canvas portrait. This portrait has the same artistic features such as The Old Guitarist and The Blue Nude among others. Picasso seems to have perfected the use of this medium in the Blue Period (Wye 48).
Format and Scale
For this particular piece, it can be noted that the measurements were approximately 126.4 cm by 94 cm. This means that portrait is large and rather life-size, considering that the subjects are seated. The format seen here is a vertical rectangle, in that the subjects look thinner and taller than they may be in real life.
The Work’s Function
The iconography of this painting, as discussed above, is of a couple that seems disconnected from each other. They are at the same table and seated next to each other, but they are not in any way together. In fact, each of the subjects seems to have a different mood. The woman is angry or disappointed while the man is hostile or simply distant. As for the location, it can be noted that the subjects are in a restaurant. With all these factors in mind, it can be appreciated that this work is an expression of the turbulence in the couple’s relationship. The man is away from the woman, without having to be physically detached from her. He is seated next to her and yet, he pays no attention to her. The woman, on the other hand, seems to be in a corner that she cannot leave, but she is not happy either. The work’s function is to highlight the challenges of this kind of a relationship at the time.
This work of art can be interpreted in two different contexts. First, it is a part of the Blue Period collection. During this period, Picasso mainly focused on expressing somberness and sadness and all negative feelings that came because of the numerous injustices and imbalances in society. Works from this period are mostly focused on the troubles of the forgotten, the oppressed, and the lonely members of society. With this in mind, it could be interpreted that the Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal is an expression of the desperate situation, in which men and women in relationships were. The man and the woman in this portrait are obviously not happy together, and yet, the woman is in a corner and unable to leave. The man pays no attention to the woman despite her attempt to look beautiful, considering the bright colored brooch in her hair and her rather seductive clothing. Here, the plight of a woman in a bad relationship is being highlighted.
From another perspective, this portrait could be interpreted to mean the gloom of a bad marriage. The couple in the portrait is obviously unhappy but they do not do anything about it. They are both at a small table, with limited room even for the two of them. The man also looks rather hostile, seeming as if he tries to discourage any interference from onlookers or outsiders in their relationship. The woman is obviously not happy and she even looks rather disappointed. This could mean that she is also tired of the marriage and she might hope to be left alone by her husband.
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The Portrait of Sebastian Juner Vidal is an impressive and yet very sad work of art. In this portrait, the couple is distant from each other despite being in a small space. The dominantly singular color palette makes the painting even sadder, and the dark shades emphasize the gloom surrounding the couple. The painting is yet another effective expression of loneliness or oppression that characterizes Picasso’s Blue Period. It can also be appreciated that the artist once again used formal elements like space and color on an oil on canvas medium with exquisite and deep results.
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