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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the music Picasso in Paris and we're looking at a little oval painting by Pablo Picasso called still life with chair caning this dates to 1912 chair caning is the woven material that rattan seats are made of interestingly this is not actual chair caning this is collage Picasso has introduced this printed industrial material that's a kind of outrageous act it had been done also by Georges Braque Picasso's collaborator and cubism introducing mechanically reproduced imagery into a painting is a violation of so much of what painting had been about we Revere good painting because of its virtuosity it's undermining his very vocation as a painter the illusionistic creation of depth that had been so much a part of painting since the Renaissance is here in fatica Li two-dimensional because we're aware of this oil cloth I also noticed the letters jou writing on something you know you write on paper that also is a very flat surface but here Picasso has to be something much more complicated he's so clearly telling us that he's playing with space and with illusionism there's no question that lettering is on a surface and so writing on a canvas destroys the illusion of death that's an idea that had been introduced also by prof. originally but here it has a double meaning look at the off-kilter rectangle you can read that as a bundled newspaper and the word in French for newspaper is sure now daily like the Daily Post or the Wall Street Journal but it could also since were in Paris be part of the word jouer which means to play which is exactly what I was saying because I was doing with space and in any case those letters have become independent of any printed matter any magazine or newspaper that they were part of and rides ambiguously on the surface of the pain and what we're looking at is a depiction by Picasso of the stem of the pipe you can see clearly a white pipe perhaps one made of clay you can see the white of the stem you can see the bowl the bowl doesn't seem to connect to the stem there is a bit of disassembly here actually in all of the forms that we see depicted within this canvas meaning a kind of taking apart and you just refer to the taking a part of the pipe and so I'm looking for other still light elements because after all that's the title of this painting still life is chair caning so what might be on a parisian tabletop a glass of wine perhaps and we see a piece of stemware with a bowl at the top worth of stem and with a round base the problem is is the Picasso seems to be and this is central to understanding what rock and Picasso were trying to do with cubism this glass seems to be seen from a variety of different angles different perspectives or points of view so for instance it looks as if we're looking down at the base but perhaps a cross at the stem and then the bowl of the glass is completely fragmented for hundreds of years since the Renaissance the idea of depicting something from one vantage point at one moment of time that was the standard that's what paintings were and so this is a revolutionary thing to do and calls into question not only hundreds of years of illusionism but also how we see how we experience the world who says we should experience it from one place at one time well we don't we see through time and we see through space exactly so that Renaissance idea is a construction it's not reality Picasso and Braque are not inventing this Suzanne had begun to explore this idea in the late 19th century he's quite famous for his still lives one of the reasons the Picasso was returning to the still life and what's his on did is place an apple on a table and look at it from in front but then perhaps he would lean forward look down at the Apple ever-so-slightly and he would allow for that disjunction to exist simultaneously but Casso and brach pushed that further and begin to say how can I explore the full visual experience of the forms on what is here actually a cafe table with a rope as a frame the way that we perhaps might see something holding in place the edges of a tablecloth at a cafe and also poking a little bit of fun at the ornate frames with which paintings are often exhibited you walk through the Louvre you see all sorts of ornate gold frames and so this idea of including industrial prefabricated not custom-made material although in this case the Rope was custom made by a rope makers so that it would fit this oval canvas on the right you can see the handle on the blade of a knife and a bit of citrus maybe a lemon maybe a lime below that the scalloping of a napkin and so all of these elements are things that you might see on a glass cafe table and then to fit it all together the chair caning that gives the painting its title perhaps that's a chair that's been tucked under the table that we're looking down at again thinking about jouer playing with the idea of the painting as a window through which review reality this is an idea that's so central to western paintings since the Renaissance the painting is so real that we mistake it for a view out the window but here Picasso is placing both shadow and reflection on that glass tabletop we can see diagonal brushstrokes for instance off the bottom of the wine glass the great irony it seems to me here though is that prefabricated chair caning that he's purchased and cut out and glued to the surface of this canvas does a better job at providing an illusion than the paint does which is what painting has been supposed to have been doing for hundreds of years but now a manufacturing process can do it better and it makes clear that the art is in the poetry in the actual pursuit in the investigation in the analytic disassembly of what we see in the philosophical investigation rather than in the craftsmanship but the irony is the Picasso is also a brilliant craftsman but this idea of devaluing craft and elevating philosophical ideas elevating the conceptual is something that is so important for the rest of 20th century painting [Music]