Kate Soudant, Albright-Knox Art Gallery docent
August 2, 2014
During a recent tour I gave to campers ranging in age from 7 to 14, I was once again shown the power of art.
While looking at Pablo Picasso’s Harlequin (Project for a Monument), 1935, I started by asking the group what they could see in the picture. The youngest and smallest in the group blurted out, ”Albrecht Dürer.” The rest of the group giggled a bit, mainly because not one of them had heard of the artist Albrecht Dürer. When I asked the young boy why this work reminded him of Dürer, he stated, “I saw a picture of Albrecht Dürer once before and this reminds me of him.”
This made me ponder the possible connection between Dürer and Picasso and come to the following insight: While Albrecht Dürer preceded Pablo Picasso by more than 400 years, they shared an interest in geometric forms. Picasso, a painter and sculptor, is well known for being a leader in the development of Cubism, a style of art that breaks objects down into geometric forms. Dürer, who was not only a painter, engraver, and printmaker but also a mathematician, created a method of depicting a cube in two dimensions through a linear perspective and developed a geometric shape—the triangular trapezohedron, known more commonly as the Dürer Cube or Dürer’s Solid. This new shape is visible in his iconic print Melencolia I, 1514, which was recently on view as part of the exhibition Albrecht Dürer: Highlights from the Collection. Melencolia I also includes depictions of tools of geometry and the first depiction of a mathematical puzzle known as a “magic square.”
Whether Picasso thought of or was influenced by Dürer when he created his Cubist works will remain unknown, but this boy’s keen insight allowed me to ponder a possible connection between these two artists and to look at two works I have seen many times in a new and exciting way.