Three Musicians

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Three Musicians is the title of two oil paintings by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso from 1921, created in the summer of the year in Fontainebleau, near Paris. Both reflect the style of Synthetic Cubism, although they originated in a time when painted in Picasso already in the neoclassical style. The text describes the later version. It has the dimensions of 200.7 x 222.9 cm and is held by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA ) in New York, the earlier version can be viewed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The main difference between the two versions is in the positioning of the middle and the left figure.


The two -meter-wide painting shows three almost life-sized musicians in a room, they stand on a stage. Before them is a table on which is a non-recognizable object, and under the table is on the left side - barely visible - a large black dog. The musicians wear costumes: Links Pierrot playing a clarinet, in the middle of a harlequin guitar, and sings a monk right after a sheet of music, which he holds in both hands. In contrast to the spatial perspective all the musicians are flat, without depth dimension shown. The table is shown from above, its lateral edges are not parallel, but soft apart. The non-representational, cut in geometric shapes figures have sharp outlines and are painted in the colors black, off-white, blue, red and yellow; the walls and floor are painted in different shades of brown.

History and interpretation

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The musicians and the dog quote motives of a past period - received as pink period in the history of art - from Picasso's life in the early 20th century, when he was the bohemian circus life devoted and this, in his works, such as 1905 in The Juggler represented. Pierrot and Harlequin are key figures from the old Italian popular comedy, the commedia dell'arte. Before painting Three Musicians Picasso created after a trip to Italy in 1917, the thematically similar works Seated Pierrot (1918 ), but in classic style. It is also held by the Museum of Modern Art

Picasso stood on this painting with the figure in the middle is probably even dressed as Harlequin flanked by two figures who could his poet friends, the late Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob, who had retired to a monastery represent. The flat fragments of the figures are due to cut and painted pieces of paper here ( papier collé ), an early form of collage, which was typical of the synthetic cubism. The French painter Paul Cézanne had already in 1888 his son Jan painted with friend Louis Guillaume as Pierrot and Harlequin. The influence of Cézanne, Picasso had on him quoted the famous words: " Cézanne! Cézanne was father of us all ".

Another conjecture that brings concrete persons with the musicians in connection refers to three composers with which Picasso has worked for the theater. There are Erik Satie, Manuel de Falla and Igor Stravinsky. In 1920, Picasso had made ​​for the ballet Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky sets and costumes. The Principal Sergei Diaghilev was in contrast to the ballet Parade demanded from 1917 an abstract decor. Furthermore, there are interpretations that the painting was a kind of " mourning " for Picasso, because he had to give up his Bohèmeleben after marriage with Olga Khokhlova in 1918.

Also in the summer of 1921 was Picasso's painting Three Women at the Fountain, which is held in the neoclassical style.


The art dealer Paul Rosenberg bought the picture in the fall of 1921 directly by Picasso for his private collection. In 1949 it was with the help of Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund in the possession of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, on.