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The Acrobat Family
  • Artist Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881 - 1973)
  • TitleThe Acrobat Family
  • Dating 1905
  • Technique/MaterialGouache, watercolour and ink on paper
  • Dimensions104 x 75 cmx
  • AcquisitionPurchase, 1922
  • Art MovementModernism
  • CategoryPainting
  • Inventory NumberGKM 0699
  • Rights and ReproductionSuccession Picasso/BUS 2015©
  • Display StatusNot shown in the museum
Description
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The young family is caught in an intimate moment offstage. In the background are some swathes of green and blue, perhaps part of a circus tent. The mother sits in the centre, puckering her lips ready to kiss the little, half-naked boy on her lap, who is turning to touch his mother’s neck. The mother has her hair up and is wearing a pale blue dress that falls in elegant folds. Gracefully, she has raised one foot—perhaps she is a tightrope walker. On a decorated drum to the left sits the father, a lanky performer in a harlequin costume and a bicorn hat. With one hand on his knee and the other resting on his arm, he has turned to the mother and child and is studying his son seriously. On the red ground in the lower right-hand corner is a baboon, squatting, looking up at the family with an almost human expression.

The Acrobat Family has several elements evidently from the classical tradition. The Christian iconography is tangible: the acrobat family is Picasso’s version of the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. Like Joseph and Mary of Nazareth, circus performers lived in straitened circumstances. Yet it remains a picture full of light and hope. The future is in the mother’s hands, in the form of the small child.

The artwork is classical even if the figures are somewhat elongated. The style is linear, with thin outlines, while the colour underlines the volumes and creates mood. The colour is not particularly naturalistic; indeed, it is well on the way to being wholly liberated from the motif. This is a taste of the experimental phase to come that would ultimately lead to Cubism.

Kristoffer Arvidsson from The Collection Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg 2014