The Cubist Man with a Pipe: A description of a work
The Poet (Man with a Pipe); by Pablo Picasso; oil on canvas;1912.
What is the relationship of an ear to an eye to a mustache to a pipe? What is the thing that the attributes are structured around? What is the spatial connection between the bowl of a pipe and a stem? Can anything be understood in isolation? The cubist poet, the fragmented man painted by Picasso, is an exploration of relationships, cohesion and meaning.
One can make out a forehead on the top of the painting. The hair is swept backward with the fine lines of an oiled and combed black hair that belonged to the Parisian in a café. Moving one’s eye downward one is quickly thrown splashes of a nose, an eye closed and contemplative, another eye, the other side of the nose, an ear, a lock of hair, a pipe stem, a mustache, a pipe bowl without any smoke, another mustache.
And then we feel the man. We see the attributes and feel the emotion with those closed eyes and the unlit pipe and the muted earthy tones of the shades of brown. We experience his attributes—disconnected and given in a collection of isolated objects—and we feel the thing and the being.
The painting is of cubes, yet we see a man and a certain type of man and we know there is a relationship between this cube and that. He is a poet and we can feel his poetry even though cohesion of objects, and thus meaning, seems to be lost.
But the connection may not be what we once thought. Now we must ask what a man is if his ear is not rooted to his jaw. Is he still a man? Where we have assumed being and connected cohesion and meaning we now must question them.
One sees the fragments and attempts to connect them, explaining them by their world, by our world. Can anything be understood in isolation? If we seek to know the pipe of the poet, then we attempt to place it into a context. We ask about its use, its spatial relationship, its value, its role. The pipe can be understood if we understand tobacco, if we know of men and fire and smoke. If we explain the pipe we explain the world in which it has its being.
We see this man, cubed and fragmented, and we know something of who he is and of his contemplation and of his poetry.
We seek to take the piece offered us and attached them to the world, find the manifestation of meaning and the narrative about this being.