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Painting, 1904, 74.5×58.5 cm

Description of the artwork «Celestine»

Portrait "Celestine" (its second name is “Woman with an Assault”) was painted in 1904 at the end of the “blue period” by Picasso and is now in the artist’s museum in Paris. This is one of a series of paintings dedicated to the shadow world of brothels; her heroine is Carlota Valdivia, the owner of the brothel in Barcelona.

Picasso's “Blue Period” falls on 1900-1904, when he painted essentially monochrome paintings in blue and blue-green hues, occasionally diluting them with other colors. These gloomy works are now among the most popular among the Spaniard, although at one time he sold them with difficulty. His early years in Paris were difficult, and these paintings depicting beggars, cripples, street children and the blind seemed to reflect the painter’s own poverty and uncertainty about tomorrow.

Blindness is a constant theme in the works of Picasso of that period. She combines Celestine with works such as"Breakfast of the blind" (1903, New York Metropolitan Museum of Art),"Old Jew with a boy" (1903, A. Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts) or well-known engraving“A meager meal” (1904), which depicts a blind man and a sighted woman, exhausted, sitting at an almost empty table.

It is unclear what exactly became the starting point for the “blue period”. Perhaps Picasso was affected by a trip to Spain and the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas, who shot himself in a Paris cafe on February 17, 1901. The artist himself claimed that he began to write in blue when he learned about the death of a colleague. But art critic Helena Secel notes that he was not in Paris during the suicide. This dramatic event was manifested in the works of Picasso only in the autumn of that year, when he made several portraits of the deceased. Their culmination was a gloomy allegorical picture"A life" (1903, Cleveland Museum of Fine Arts).

A significant influence on the paintings of the “blue period”, devoted to brothels and prostitutes, was made by the artist’s visit to the Saint-Lazare Women's Prison in Paris, where the nuns also served as security guards. Picture"Two sisters" (1902, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg) is an example of how an artist combined everyday reality with Christian iconography. The pose and gestures of women resemble how artists depict the Visitation of Mary, the blue color symbolizes the Virgin. This scene is related to her meeting with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.

The “blue period” was followed by “pink”, when Picasso's paintings were mostly dominated by this warm color, but the artist’s depression did not stop. It actually continued until the “Cubist period” (which followed the “pink”), and only in the subsequent period of neoclassicism did his work begin to demonstrate playfulness, which remained an outstanding feature of his work until the end of his life. Contemporaries of Picasso did not even make a distinction between the blue and pink periods, considering them one.

The constant theme of Picasso’s “blue period”, which turned into “pink,” was the hopelessness of social outsiders - prisoners, beggars, circus artists, the poor or other desperate. This topic corresponded not only to his mood, but also to the spirit of the time, the artistic and intellectual vanguard of the early 20th century.

Author: Vlad Maslov
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Post-Impressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1904

Size: 74.5×58.5 cm

Artwork in selections: 8 selections

Exhibitions history