Why Picasso Gouged Out His Own Eyes

THE DAILY PIC: In 1908, the new-minted Cubist scratched out his previous vision.

Pablo Picasso

Picasso made this drawing in late 1908, and it’s now in the show of the Lauder gift of Cubist pictures at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Most artists discover a new mode or style then stick to it until it’s exhausted. The great thing about Picasso is that he always ranged more widely than that: Here, at the moment when he’s inventing Cubism, he makes a drawing that’s built on more old-fashioned representation. Of course, he then cancelled out the image by defacing its eyes, which is about as aggressive (and compelling) a repudiation as you could get.

What were those eyes looking at? Maybe the ghostly erasure of a female nude that’s just visible under the face. That means the scratching out of its eyes has violently sexual overtones that are typically Picassoid, especially given the rhyme of the woman’s breasts and the (self?) portrait’s eyes. (Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

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