Sally Porter's Web Log
Picasso's Bullfight: Death of the Toreador, 1933 and Bullfight (Corrida), 1934 
Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 07:54 AM - General
Posted by Administrator
Picasso's two bullfight paintings, Bullfight: Death of the Toreador, 1933 and Bullfight (Corrida), 1934, are two variations of the same subject with different emotional impact.

In the 1933 painting, the horse, the bull, and the decapitated bullfighter are three actors performing on the stage of the bullring. First, we notice the disemboweled pale horse of death, still on its feet, but in obvious agony. Out of nowhere, the charging bull appears in a fury of fluttering red cape. We finally notice the decapitated bullfighter who has lost his head in an effort to subdue the charging black beast. The animals in this painting are given more importance than the human. The white horse and the black bull represent the struggle between good and evil. The bullfighter is overwhelmed and has lost his head in the struggle. This is a private moment in a public space, with no audience present to witness the event.

The following year, Picasso paints the same scene. A bullfight. This time he eliminates the human figure altogether; he has assimilated the animal and become the bull. The savage bull is trampling the broken screaming horse; the sharp hooves of the bull are crushing the animal below. The face of the bull expresses raving fury. The drama and emotion is heightened in this painting over the first.

In the first version, great care was taken to paint the bull's head in a realistic style, modeling the nostrils and painting the individual hairs on the bull's head. Even the folds in the fabric and fringe of the toreador's sash are given much attention. These devices draw attention away from the action, reducing the emotional impact of the work.

In the 1934 painting, the reduction of forms to sharp geometric lines and simple, bold shapes sear the viewer with a strong, hard hitting image. Ghostly faces peer down from the stands (or from heaven?) at the spectacle of death below. The rage of the bull is felt as he engages in the act of destroying his victim.

Sally Porter
Sally Porter Gallery
www.SallyPorterGallery.com

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