The language of representation: Pablo Picasso, Guitar


Pablo Picasso, Guitar, 1914, ferrous sheet metal and wire 30 1/2″ x 13 3/4″ x 7 5/8″ / 77.5 x 35 x 19.3 cm (MoMA)

I have seen what no man has seen before. When Pablo Picasso, leaving aside painting for a moment, was constructing this immense guitar out of sheet metal whose plans could be dispatched to any ignoramus in the universe who could put it together as well as him, I saw Picasso’s studio, and this studio, more incredible than Faust’s laboratory, this studio which, according to some, contained no works of art, in the old sense, was furnished with the newest of objects… Some witnesses, already shocked by the things that they saw covering the walls, and that they refused to call paintings because they were made of oilcloth, wrapping paper, and newspaper, said, pointing a haughty finger at the object of Picasso’s clever pains: “What is it? Does it rest on a pedestal? Does it hang on a wall? What is it, painting or sculpture?’ Picasso, dressed in the blue of Parisian artisans, responded in his finest Andalusian voice: ‘It’s nothing, it’s el guitare!’; And there you are! The watertight compartments are demolished. We are delivered from painting and sculpture, which already have been liberated from the idiotic tyranny of genres. It is neither this nor that. It is nothing. It’s el guitare!

(André Salmon, New French Painting, August 9, 1919)

Cite this page as: Sal Khan and Dr. Steven Zucker, "The language of representation: Pablo Picasso, Guitar," in Smarthistory, December 9, 2015, accessed September 29, 2016, http://smarthistory.org/pablo-picasso-guitar/.