In 1921 the “Three Musicians” was created by Pablo Picasso as a farewell piece to Synthetic cubism.
Cubism itself consists of different points of view, typically created through geometric figures, which are then compiled into one complete painting. Cubism lasted for fifteen years and evolved into three phases of Cubism which Picasso explored; Analytical, Synthetic, and Curvilinear.
Analytical Cubism focused generally on geometric figures without much depth or substance. The images were continually broken down into rectangular or circular shapes. These paintings, however, lacked any real emotion or expression.
In 1912, there was a shift from Analytical Cubism to Synthetic Cubism. What marked this change was the color and passion which Picasso began including in his artwork. Synthetic Cubism really identified Picasso as a sentimental intellect in the art world. Conceptual views and the alteration of a figure’s illustration caused the period to be identified as abstract. Different textures, materials and colors helped to accentuate and define the geometric forms that were featured in Picasso’s works of art. “Three Musicians” was an essential piece to this period.
Although Picasso was embedding emotion and power in his paintings, the cafe setting and instruments were quite easy and lacking of detail. The three musicians pictured are a Harlequin, a Monk and a Pierrot. The Harlequin and the Pierrot are stock characters typically used in old Italian comic theater, a central theme in many of Picasso’s paintings. The Harlequin, the central figure, is taller than the other two faithful musicians playing by his side, and appears to be holding a guitar. The Harlequin became Picasso’s alter ego early on in his work actually starting in the Blue Period and it is generally thought that Picasso was in fact portraying himself as the lead musician in “Three Musicians. ”
The other two performers are believed to be a Pierrot and Monk. One theory is that the Monk and the Pierrot were poet friends of Picasso’s. The Pierrot is to the left side of the painting and is holding a saxophone. Along with this, there’s a dog beneath his feet appearing to be lost within the shadows for his only identifying traits are his ears, tail and feet. The Monk is standing to the right of the Harlequin and is holding sheet music. However, there’s much the small amount of detail in the notes featured on the score is quite peculiar.
It appears that this painting is created by large pieces of either paper or fabric that are then cut and pasted into large geometric shapes, but the painting in fact was entirely done with oil on canvas. The ridged patches of colors and shapes are what cause people to believe that the music being played has an unstable and crooked rhythm.