III. Depicting Dance

III. Depicting Dance

Beyond the world of ballet, Picasso depicted a large number of scenes of dance. In the 1890s, cabaret dancers began to feature in his work. The artist was frequenting many music halls and café-concerts at the time – the French Cancan dancers, as well as the village dances that he depicted, reflect his bohemian lifestyle and fascination with Parisian nightlife and its festivities. This initial subject matter subsequently gave way to other themes, pretexts to depict new types of dance, such as oriental dances, mythological dances, and traditional Spanish dances like flamenco, the jota and the sardana, related to the theme “La Ronde de la Paix”.
Produced between 1904 and 1972, Picasso's etchings developed alongside his relationship to the danced movement and offer an insight into the constant presence of dance in his work, through four major themes.  

Greco-Roman mythology was a huge source of inspiration for Picasso's work. While the Minotaur, the artist's alter ego, prevailed in the 1930s, the Bacchae and the Dionysian procession took over from the 1940s. The Bacchae are the intoxicated women who perform a ritual dance in honour of Dionysus-Bacchus, the god of wine and theatre. Picasso was inspired by the bacchanalia of French classicism to depict this new female role. In August 1944, in the euphoria of the Liberation of Paris, he recreated The Triumph of Pan by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), which he reproduced in the cubist style. A celebration of a renewed zest for life, this painting marked the beginning of a new chapter in his work. With the return to peace and the artist’s frequent stays in Antibes, satyrs, centaurs, fauns and Bacchae began to feature in his compositions combining music, dance and celebration, in which the influence of the Neoclassicism of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) can at times be seen.  

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