Art & Art History ETDs

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Greco-Roman antiquity strongly influenced Picasso's work--particularly his prints. This influence extends beyond the "classical" aspect of antique culture--called by Nietzsche the Apollonian aspect after Apollo and his attributes of reason, balance, etc.--to include the emotional, bacchanalian aspect as well, which Nietzsche called the Dionysian, after Dionysus, the god most associated with these qualities. Picasso's early training included neo-classic exercises; drawings from plaster copies of antique sculpture, which were to form his first impression of antiquity, and remained an important influence throughout the history of his "antiquarianism," By 1907 however his exposure to non-classical art and to the revolutionary influence of Nietzsche caused him to abandon the neo-classic tradition in favor of modern cubist experiments (which Apollinaire characterized as Dionysian in spirit). Antique art itself was forgotten until 1917, when Picasso's visit to Italy showed him the erotic murals of Pompeii, and the rape, a major Dionysian theme in his later work, began to appear. This emo­tional excess was restrained by the Ingres-like, classic line that he had developed in his early neo-classic exercises, and that was the most important Apollonian element in his print oeuvre. He worked on several antiquarian plays, Antigone (1922) and Mercury (1924) and illustrated Metamorphoses ( 1931) and Lysistrata ( 1933). In the Vollard Suite he adapted Greek myth to a personal mythology which included a bacchic, then tragic Llinotaur, as well as Dionysus (Bacchus) himself, and the classically-profiled Marie-Therese. These works ceased abruptly in 19.35. Antiquarian works resumed in 1944 in a pastoral spirit heralded by The Triumph of Pan, and included the works from Antibes, The Two Stories, and the bacchanalian linocuts (1959). After a few sporadic works of interest, be began a series of prints in 1966 whose spirit is closely affiliated with the phallic dances which were an early form of Greek drama. Thus antique culture, and Picasso's perception of it as well, included not only the classic, Apollonian side, but also the equally important Dionysian side. For this reason, the influence of antiquity cannot be called "neo-classic," which would imply the primacy of the classic aspect, but should instead be called "antiquarian" --a term which includes not only the classic/Apollonian but also the Dionysian aspect of antiquity.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


First Committee Member (Chair)

Clinton Adams

Second Committee Member

Peter Walch

Third Committee Member

Howard David Rodee