Speaking of Picasso’s love for the corrida, his friend Hélène Parmelin wrote: 'Bulls everywhere. Picasso at the corrida is like a swimmer in the sea. Whenever there’s one within reach, he goes to it. [… ] The corrida is a summer current that carries the destinies of Sundays marvellously and inexorably away; it is a festival; it is the blood beating with the rising sun, whether with good or bad humour matters little: it is a corrida day.' (H. Parmelin, Picasso Plain: An Intimate Portrait, London, 1963, p. 140). Picasso was fascinated by the drama and violence of bullfighting as a spectacle, whilst also attracted by the subject’s deeply Spanish origins, which allowed him to thematically link his work with the country of his birth, reflecting on his Spanish heritage and personal identity through the bull’s symbol of masculinity.
Taureau is a product of vigorous shaping and reworking of the original raw material as the animal’s extremities have been manipulated from the bulk of the body. Picasso plays with the concept of the bull, abstracting it until the animal’s features are pared down to its most simplified form. Taureau draws attention only to the most expressive features of the animal. The thick bars of bronze reflect the strength and power of the bull whilst complementing the jagged horns that define its identity. The upward tilt of the horns is almost phallic and further exaggerates the bull as a symbol of masculinity.
Taureau is an emotive and symbolic representation of a creature whose meaning is ever shifting and timelessly enthralling. Appearing often in the guise of a minotaur, and most famously in Picasso’s work Guernica, the bull bleeds through the artist’s output and permeates his legacy. The bull provides Picasso with an interminable platform upon which to synthesise Classical mythology, his Spanish heritage, the history of the corrida and cherished elements from his past.
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