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Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror: Meaning & Analysis

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  • 0:00 Introduction to ''Girl…
  • 0:45 Analysis of ''Girl…
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Colleen Cleveland

Colleen has taught college level Game Development and Graphic Design and has a Master's in Interactive Entertainment and Masters in Media Psychology.

This lesson is about Pablo Picasso's art piece titled ''Girl before a Mirror''. Here, we will look at the meaning and style of the Cubist painting, and analyze the the possible interpretations of the painting.

Introduction to Girl Before a Mirror

Like the Wicked Queen in Snow White well knew, vanity is found in the reflection of a mirror. Pablo Picasso thought so - or did he? In his 1932 painting Girl Before a Mirror, he painted the image of his young French mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. What was the meaning in the mirror image of this young woman?

Girl Before a Mirror was painted during Picasso's Cubist period. Cubism was a style of painting popular in Paris at the turn of the century. Picasso was one of the founding fathers of the style. All parts of the painting are painted boldly with geometric patterns. The idea of Cubism is to take an object, break it down into simple shapes, and then recreate those shapes on a canvas, presenting multiple perspectives at the same time.

Analysis of Girl Before a Mirror

Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror, again, is a portrait of his young mistress. Like anyone in their teenage years and early twenties, she was known to primp in front of the mirror; but when one looks long enough into a mirror, one tends to start noticing the pimple breakout or the beginning of crow's feet by the eyes. Most people have had a session in front of a mirror where they were unhappy with how they looked. Although Marie-Thérèse was a fetching young woman, in the mirror she saw flaws in her physical beauty.

Although the focus is on the girl looking into the mirror and her reflection, the background is just as important in bringing out the pattern. The diamonds of the background holding the circles bring out the circles that are the girl's breasts and belly.

There are a number of interpretations that one can have for the picture:

  • The girl is looking into the mirror because she is pregnant and from the image in the mirror, she sees lopsided breasts and a fat belly.
  • The girl looking into the mirror has an angelic face full of light, but her reflection in the mirror is dark, giving this young woman a sense of being flawed.
  • The girl looking into the mirror has beauty as she has make-up on for the day. The reflection is how old she projects herself to be at night when she takes the make-up off.
  • The girl looking in the mirror may be judging her own self-worth.

Picasso used a concept in this painting known as vanitas. Vanitas paintings contain specific items that give special meaning to the painting, typically related to man's mortality. In this case, it would be the mirror. The girl is looking at her own sense of mortality in the mirror, which is darker in color and bleaker.

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