Essay on Pablo Picasso: Critical Analysis of Girl before a Mirror

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Table of contents

  1. Artist
  2. Artwork
  3. World
  4. Audience


Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 - 8 April 1973) was known as one of the most remarkable, influential and innovative artists in the 20th century. He was known for diverging between styles so incredibly different that it seems like his works are a combination of many different artists, he was a sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, etching artist and writer but he mainly mastered painting. Picasso was involved in the Modern art period which extended from roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s. During his early years, he focused on naturalism in art but as he started to face challenging world events, his style matured into Cubism and Surrealism influencing the rest of the world with his passion. Picasso brought the revolutionary new approach of Cubism to the world in around 1907–08. It is said that his new approach was inspired by African tribal masks. This art style aims to express all of the imaginable viewpoints of a subject all at once, creating fragmented and abstracted paintings and sculptures. Many people agree that Picasso started painting distorted faces in his artworks because of the hardships he endured throughout his life. He lived through some of the worst times in modern history, he survived the Spanish civil war and lived in France during the Nazi’s occupation.

From 1901 - 1904 Picasso was immersed in the blue period, it was called the blue period, because he only painted in blues. This period signifies the depression he experienced from grief after his friend Carlos Casagemas death.

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In 1904 – 1906 The Rose Period arose when Picasso fell in love with Fernande Olivier, his art transformed from using blue tones during his grief to experimenting with shades of pink symbolising their love.

African Period went from 1907 – 1909 and was influenced by African masks. Picasso moved away from the traditional side of art and focused more on abstract art.

In 1908 – 1912 Picasso explored Cubism & Collage where he used multiple perspectives and a reduction of forms to geometric shapes. In addition to this, he and Georges Braques came together and experimented with collage by attaching various materials such as shredded paper, string, and fabric to their art. Picasso went back to his old ways in 1918 - 1928 by focusing on Neo-Classicism; as he drifted from Cubism and back to a more traditional method of painting.

In 1928 - 1948 Picasso concentrated on Surrealism as did many other artists at the time in which he aimed to express creative ideas and thoughts without analytical judgement. Post-WWII Picasso continued making art, often returning to the methods and styles he had explored earlier in his life.


Girl before a Mirror was painted in March 1932 this painting is an oil on Canvas. The woman in the picture is Marie Therese Walter, she was painted various times by Pablo Picasso throughout the 1930s. Marie Therese Walter was Picasso’s mistress and model, she modelled for Picasso from 1927 to about 1935. The artwork correlates with cubism, modern art and surrealism period. Picasso was often very daring in his artwork. All parts of the painting are painted boldly with geometric patterns. He employed bright colours and patterns in the background, to make the main point of the image just as intense as the background. Picasso’s use of cubism is evident through his use of brightly coloured geometric shapes and objects and the two-dimensional surface.

When considering this painting the audience feels sorry for the girl as she doubts her own self worth and this is relatable to most individuals. There are various ways in which this painting is interpreted. Some might suggest the mirror plays a crucial role in demonstrating the contrast between the girl and her reflection, suggesting when the girl looks in the mirror she focuses on physical flaws that the world doesn't see. The girl looking in the mirror represents how Picasso sees Marie, he distorted her reflection in the mirror. In the reflection, the girl is painted with a rough texture, darkened colours and more abstract shape, highlighting her imperfections. Whereas the girl looking in the mirror is painted with light hues representing her beauty and youth. The pimple on the girl’s face is only in the reflection, demonstrating how women focus on their flaws. The orange tear under the girl’s eye allows us to feel her sadness.

The painting is a juxtaposition between the beauty of the girl during the day with make-up in contrast to the reflection of the girl when she takes her make-up off at night, alluding to how insecure women feel without makeup. The girl looking in the mirror breast’s are much higher in comparison to the reflection of the girl suggesting the girl doesn't have a bra on, furthering the contrast of the woman during the day to at night.

It could also be assumed that when the girl looks at herself in the mirror, she pictures herself as an old woman. This is implied by the discoloration of her forehead and the distortion of body parts, suggesting the girl is concerned about losing her beauty and youth.

Blue Nude was painted in 1902 after his friend Carlos Casagemas tragically committed suicide at a Paris café by shooting himself in the right temple on February 17, 1901. It is one of Pablo Picasso's most popular masterpieces throughout his early years. The painting was made during his blue period which was inspired by Picasso’s own emotional turmoil and financial poverty. The painting showcases Picasso’s depressive state after the passing of his friend. Picasso effectively highlighted the desolation in the image by only using hues of blue to express it.

The painting shows a woman hunched over seated with her back to the audience showing rejection and detachment, labelling her as an outcast. The painting is from a high angle shot showcasing how vulnerable and powerless the woman is. The rough texture and mix of surfaces in the painting make it one of his most popular works. The use of a background of the figure avoids the onlooker from the scene, depicting the model to be an outcast in society. The sharp black outlining the model intensifies the depressive mood of the artwork The salience of the top right corner of the models back is created as the viewer's gaze is drawn to the light yellow in contrast to the shades of blue. The model is placed in the foreground which draws the audience to her.


Girl before a Mirror was painted in March 1932. During this time, rumors of wars and the world economy created terror and vulnerability. During this time people were more likely to be dissociated for society and their true feelings. The Great Depression affected France from about 1931 through the remainder of the decade. Various of Picasso's other works during this time period such as Guernica that employed the vast tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicted upon society. Although the Great Depression and effects of WW2 were not reflected within Girl before a Mirror, the daily life of the artist and subject of the work were impacted, thus adversely affecting their moods and attitudes. The diminished self-worth of Marie-Thérèse is portrayed through the painting, her emotions reflect how the world was feeling at this time.

Picasso painted various artworks of the women he adored during his lifetime. Marie Therese Walter was Picasso's mistress and was often the subject of Picasso's works, being painted a number of times by him throughout the 1930s. Picasso lived in secret with Marie-Thérèse in Boisgeloup. His paintings of her were often lyrical, occasionally titillating paintings, where he incorporated intense colour with fluid forms.

Girl Before a Mirror is a part of the movement of cubism which expresses all of the imaginable viewpoints of a subject all at once, forming fragmented and abstracted paintings and sculptures.

Blue Nude was painted in 1902 during the Blue Period (1901-1904). This blue period was influenced by Picasso’s own emotional state and poverty and exacerbated by the sucide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas. His suicide had a overwhelming affect on Picasso, who was already struggling as an uncelebrated and impoverished artist living in Paris at the time. After this destavition, Picasso's art style took a profound alteration. His themes became depressive and gloomy, using a monochromatic palette of blues and blue greens to convey melancholy context of anguish and tragedy. His pictures were profoundly depressing and cheerless, leading in no reaction in the public or in buyers.


The audience is essential to understanding Picasso's artworks, as they are required to interpret the meaning and emotions behind the artworks. This makes the artwork meaningful. It’s the audience's responsibility to analyze Picasso's Blue Nude and Girl Before a Mirror to appreciate the artist and understand why he was influenced to create his art. Picasso didn't paint to gain a reaction from the viewer, he painted as an outlet of his emotions. His artworks themselves are static, but the audience and their interpretation of them changes over time.

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