The Guitarist, Pablo Picasso
I've always thought it to be so strange how artists can just tear their pieces apart again and again without even thinking it over twice. This thought occurred to me for the first time one day after watching one of my really close art friends tear apart a collage she had--just a few weeks prior--put together along the widest wall of her room. This experience COMPLETELY destroyed me. Each time I had gone over to her house I had admired the beauty in that collage--how she had so creatively combined different magazine cutouts and how she had added accents of yellow to compliment her theme of blue. These highlights reminded me of beaming stars against the darkness of night or the flame of a candle dancing in the middle of a couple’s anniversary dinner table. Now, it was being fiercely ripped apart and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like how my face of shock only encouraged hers of excitement. “Just wait til’ you see the next one,” she said to me eagerly. She then began her next masterpiece as she answered the question that was written all over my face, the one that would be written among anyone else witnessing that moment too. Who does that? She explained how this was the only space big enough for what she had envisioned and that it had left her with no choice but to take advantage of her walls. This I would understand to be the reason for her constant change of room decor.
I’ve come to learn along the years that artists have done this sort of thing across decades. This is thanks to scientists who have used fluorescent X-rays to uncover hidden images beneath paintings. For instance Van Gogh’s Patch of Grass in Paris which he painted in 1887. Yes! Beneath this beautiful field of fresh grass lies the portrait of a woman who appears to be a peasant. Art experts have explained the reason behind Gogh’s recycling of canvas and frequent painting of images on top of others to be that he needed to save money.
George Seurat also did a similar thing as he purposely chose to cover his self-portrait behind the mirror of his painting, Young Woman Powdering Herself which is of a woman as she applies her makeup. This woman appears to be Seurat’s mistress at the time. Within this piece, Seurat added reflections of flowers against the mirror in order to cover his own image. Experts once again came forward to explain that the reason he covered up his self-portrait was to keep his affair a secret.
During his “Blue Period,” Pablo Picasso, like Van Gogh, also struggled to fund his art supplies. This was a time when he would often substitute canvases for cardboard. Whenever he did get a hold of a canvas, it would be reused again and again and again! One of his most famous repurposed pieces is his painting, The Old Guitarist, which turns out was painted over another figure. X-rays actually revealed many different details on this one. It appears that there is a woman there, nursing a small child and accompanied by a bull and a sheep.
It seems to me as though there is a common theme between my dear friend and these remarkable artists in history. That involves there being nothing that can get in the way of an artist and their desire to keep creating and putting their ideas to play. This is reflected in my friend and her decision to take the place of what was already a beautiful collage she had made for another one given that otherwise, the new one would not have been possible. Or Van Gogh and Picasso's struggle with money not discouraging them from painting and pursuing their passion for art. This is such a powerful thing, oftentimes leaving an artist to have nowhere else to turn to but an already used canvas, a bedroom wall, a piece of cardboard, or maybe even the sole of a shoe. Without this sense of recycling and making the best of what was available to them, they would not have had the chance to express themselves in the way that they felt they needed to at the time. This is what led these artists to with no hesitation, follow to reuse that canvas even if perhaps there was already a beautiful painting there.
The creation of art is such a personal thing. It disregards all that may involve what others would like to see, what seems trendy at the time or what one should be doing. Instead, it is an inevitable calling to constantly keep finding new ways to express oneself and evolve.