Bather, Pablo Picasso, 1908-1909

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Oil on canvas. It’s at the MoMA!

His body is shown contorted, comprised of rounded shapes derived from the natural world. Reality is not a concern in this place, a semi-composite view is even used to reveal a second butt cheek and a line of back muscle that would have remained hidden otherwise. His face is grayed and abstracted in the same fashion. His joints consist of more rounded pieces than the rest of him; each piece of his shoulder fits into the next the same way our shoulders give us the same ability. But second to his abstracted use of composite parts, comes his use of color, with dark to light gradients revealing shadows on his back and a point of light lying behind the viewer. And the abstract use of stark white on his behind and dull gray on his face complements the rest of the portraits abstract nature. He’s holding his towel that still partly lingers on the ground while wiping his brow with his other hand. His unnatural pose and abstract representation leave us with no indication as to whether he’s just had a bath or is about to. He could be really dirty or really clean, although it hardly seems to matter. Only in that it gives him a reason to be nude and on the beach.

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