Picasso’s Girl Before a Mirror
Pablo Picasso was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and some of Europe’s greatest impressionist painters. Picasso’s Girl before a Mirror reflects a woman looking not out to her viewers as the Ramos women do, but rather into the mirror, and into herself. Introspective and contemplative, this woman is concerned with her own inner self, her fragmentation, and her mysteries, but not her sexual allure. Her body is not a thing of beauty in the painting, because Picasso wanted to show that perception changes everything. Ramos’s women perceive themselves to be beautiful objects for men to desire and appreciate. Picasso’s girl may or may not be speculating about her allure, but she certainly is looking inward at a fragmented self. What viewers see in the girl and her experience may be quite different from what Picasso saw. Ramos’s woman is a representational artistic expression, whereas Picasso’s girl is an abstraction, a woman removed from herself and from the viewers.
Early twentieth century society emerged from a century of civil strife, developing social responsibility and a clear demarcation between the haves and the have-nots; and it still embraced sexual repression. Freud would have everyone believe that the subconscious is the critical part of human motivation and directs humankind in ways that is not understandable. Yet, the subconscious stores the repressed thoughts and desires, creating great tensions on men and women who want to passionately express themselves, but are held back. This tension creates a fragmented self, a lack of knowing part of the self. In the Western world, in 1932, rumors or war and the world economy created fear and upheaval in people. Society felt fragmented from stability and a sense of the future. Picasso’s painting also reflected these troubled times in his Girl before a Mirror. Thus, the girl looking into her mirror does not even see herself as she actually is. The viewer sees two different figures, one on the outside and the other a reflection. But the reflection is a false image of the girl. She reaches out towards the reflection, as if to embrace yet another part of herself that she sees in the mirror.