Teachers Lesson Plans

An Introduction to Pictorial Space

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Paul CÚzanne (1839-1906), Portrait of a Peasant, circa 1900 and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), The Small Table, 1919

Artist Paul CÚzanne's work had a decisive influence on 20th-century artists, and particularly on Cubists. The construction of space with small subtle colour areas overlapping each other had shown artists that it was possible to create a solid and consistent composition without using linear perspective or relief. In Paul CÚzanne's painting, the sheathing on both sides of the model is not in line. That is also true for the seat rails. Yet, the various parts of the painting, while independent from one another, are all united by paint strokes and the harmony of colours.

Pablo Picasso tried hard to limit the trompe-l'œil effect in pictorial space: he tipped the small table, displaying its surface vertically and eliminating almost completely the illusion of depth. Moreover, the artist did not change the intensity of colours to suggest relief. Only the successive grounds placed side by side give the work some depth. This approach is similar to CÚzanne's.