Tête d’homme III is a vivid example of Picasso’s late paintings of the male subject. As Marie-Laure Bernadac writes, “The most striking feature of the late period is undoubtedly its vitality… Accumulation and speed were the only defenses he [Picasso] had left in his fight to the death with time. Every work he created was a part of himself, a particle of life, a point scored against death. ‘I have less and less time’, he said, ‘and I have more and more to say.’ What allowed him to gain time, to go faster, was his recourse to conventional signs, formal abbreviations, the archetypal figure that concentrates the essence of what he has to say” (Marie-Laure Bernadac in Late Picasso (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, London, 1988, pp. 84-85). Here, Bernadac alludes to and reflects on Picasso’s use of tribal masks and their ability to disguise oneself—a theme prevalent in Picasso’s male portraits during this period. Furthermore, Tête d’homme III was conceived among the full panoply of musketeers, matadors and painters all of whom embody a sense of power and masculinity through their costumes and demeanor. The reduced palette, compromised essentially of blue, black, green and pink, creates a minimalist and expressive representation. More than simply a medium, the pigment becomes a productive matter that illuminates the painting with a unique aura. The canvas becomes a fusion of form and color, a quest for: “drawing and colour [to] become the same thing” (Hélène Parmelin, Picasso dit…, Paris, 1966, p. 85). The artist mixes bold primary colors and rich blacks and grays, painting with both broad, sweeping brushstrokes and energetic staccato effects to create a work of startling intensity and energy: “only a few lines, pink, green... that’s all you need isn’t it? What else do I need to do? What can I add to that? Everything has been said” (Picasso quoted in Hélène Parmelin, ibid., pp. 18-19).
Tête d’homme III furthermore illustrates Picasso's conception of the self portrait as metaphor rather than the description. It is a portrait of art-making rather than just simply a portrait of the artist. More so, the face is undoubtedly reminiscent of Picasso’s own appearance, with the round head, large eyes and bushy eyebrows. By dividing the face into several distinct parts with broad strokes of color, the canvas echoes the facial distortions of Francis Bacon and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The result is a strikingly expressive portrait of astounding modernity. It is a testament to the skill of an artist, who, even as he approached his death, was still able to revolutionize conceptions of art.
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