Family Audio Tour: Still Life with a Mandolin

Cubist still life painting of a mandolin, bottle, and other objects on a table
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Still Life with a Mandolin, 1924. © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2020Credit

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Still Life with a Mandolin, 1924

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Transcript

Ide:
I could look at this painting for hours – and I sometimes do, because when I’m looking after the works of art in the galleries, I’m often in the same room for a l-o-o-ng time!

Eoin:
It looks like a puzzle to me – like when you have to put different shapes into the right holes. 

Ide:
Yes, but the more you look, the more it makes sense. See if you can recognise anything in the picture. What about the blue oval shape on the right?

Eoin:
There’s a hole in the middle and white lines going down at the bottom, like strings. Is it a guitar?

Ide:
Close. It’s a mandolin, like a round guitar. And what about the bottom of the picture, in the corners, where there are two curved white shapes next to blue.

Eoin:
I think they look like table legs, and between them, the long black pattern looks like it could be a tablecloth. So is this a picture of a table with objects on it?

Ide:
Exactly! It’s that we call a still life painting. 

Eoin:
Then the white shape on the left must be a bowl – with grapes inside it – those black dots. And the long curvy shape in the middle must be a bottle. And the squiggly black pattern in the back are maybe plants.

Ide:
See how it all comes together? 

Eoin:
Yes, but why didn’t this artist just paint things like they actually look?

Ide:
Well his name was Pablo Picasso and he invented a new way of painting. Instead of painting things from just one angle, he wanted show things from all different sides at the same time. Like the table: we’re looking across at the legs but look down at the top. Picasso also liked to make shapes and colours stronger than they actually were – like the blue oval shape he used for the mandolin.

Eoin:
Like you said the more you look the more you find. Makes me think about what objects I can put in my own still life.

Ide:
Can you help Eoin? If you had to paint a still life, what objects would you put in it? Tell whoever you’re with.

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