Pablo PICASSO, Nature morte au Piano, été 1911-printemps 1912, 50 X 130, Collection Heinz Bergruen, Geneva
Déodat de Séverac
A specific musical influence of Picasso’s decision to incorporate the Catalan music’s color and energy may have been from the Catalan composer Marie-Joseph-Alexandre Déodat de Séverac. This direction of progression in Picasso’s art becomes especially evident during his second summer in Céret, when De Séverac and Picassso lived together (Buettner 117). The relationship between the two is evident as Picasso sketched the composer in 1912 – Déodat de Séverac. Picasso’s attraction to De Séverac is explained through the composer’s maverick qualities. It is known that upon graduation from music school, De Séverac declared his independence and refused to associate himself with any other musical group (Landormy 209). He was a composer characterized by life and freedom, as Paul Landormy described in his article “Déodat de Séverac”: “This independent spirit, this heart so free and generous, found no room for an art arbitrarily bounded by latent hostilities” (Landormy 210). Refusing to confine himself with the limits of others, De Séverac created music that was unrestricted by pressures to conform to a certain style, resulting in refreshing and lively compositions.
De Séverac’s music, expressing his love for Catalonia, matched Picasso’s intrigue with the Catalan culture – a connection that would prove influential to Picasso’s Cubism. Catalonia was De Séverac’s passion, and his music reflected this love (Landormy 211). One of the composer’s most well known pieces, En Languedoc, captured the essence of the lively Catalonia. The composition is alive, and the musical instruments capture the energy of the Catalonian scene. Landormy praised the piece: “the ringing and tinkling of bells, the noisy fifes and tambourines, the cries of joy, the clapping of hands and the tapping of feet, mingle and alternate in a racy fantasia, in a scene inundated with dazzling brilliances” (Landormy 212). The various instruments collaborate to produce joyful and bustling music, celebrating the Catalan culture. De Séverac’s music must have stimulated Picasso, as his Cubist paintings begin to take on new elements. Though not a guitar painting, it is worthwhile to explore Picasso’s Still Life on a Piano (1912), as it is known that the piece alluded to De Séverac (Buettner 116). The mathematical elements of the painting are still present, but a sensation of increased motion is conveyed through the painting. Though titled as a still life, Picasso was attempting to show the life emerging from the piano’s music. Musical notes and symbols are scattered throughout the painting, illustrating the flowing quality of music. De Séverac’s energy is also conveyed through the increased color of the painting. Though still dominated by brown tones, as in the previously discussed guitar paintings, Picasso does add more color contrast, especially in the black and white of the piano keyboard.
A second influence of De Séverac may have been his separation of En Languedoc into movements. On these movements, Buetter wrote, “The individual movements [depict] the country, the seasons, the times of day, the people and their religious festivals” (Buettner 117). De Séverac used separate movements to represent certain aspects of Catalonia, and together, the movements mesh to form an ode to Catalonia. Correspondingly, while still unhampered by boundaries, Picasso’s piece does show increased distinction compared to the 1911 musical representations. The keys of the piano are clearly illustrated and the parts of other instruments, for example, the F-holes of a violin or cello, are delineated. This is perhaps Picasso’s initial following of De Séverac’s lead of creating a work using separate and distinct elements.