La Vita: interpretation and analysis of Pablo Picasso’s work

La Vita is a great painting. It is currently on display in Cleveland at the Museum of Art. The work was created by Pablo Picasso in 1903. This was a period when, partly because of the loss of his friend Carlos Casagemas, who committed suicide through unrequited love, he decided to create a series of monochrome paintings. In them, the colour blue plays a predominant role. 

La Vita: description of the image

Picasso's la Vita is not a work of art with an immediate interpretation. In fact, some critics have dismissed it as mysterious modern art. However, let us try to observe it following a logical thread. We see a couple of lovers kissing on the left: she has a tired expression, while he seems apathetic. He points to a child being carried by an older woman. The couple could represent carnal love, the fruit of which is the child, who in turn is protected from motherhood in a stern, sacred robe. Carnal love as opposed to the responsibility of raising a child, with all that it implies to defend another human being. This is why the woman has a tired face and the man is absorbed. There is therefore no joy for Pablo Picasso in the life of a couple and a family, which would naturally result from the union of two people who love each other.

Pablo Picasso and Carlos Casagemas

It must be considered that the painter, as we said at the beginning, was shocked by the suicide of his Spanish painter and poet friend Casagemas: indeed, we remember him in the painting with the man's face. In the preparatory phase of the opera, Picasso had portrayed himself as the man kissing the girl. However, he later decided to represent his friend. Carlos Casagemas and Pablo Picasso had met in Barcelona and a deep and affectionate friendship was born between them. Together they went to Paris for a short time and got to know modernist Barcelona, full of cultural and artistic stimuli. But then the friend fell in love with a girl in search of fortune and success, Germaine Gargallo; from her he received only rejection and betrayal. In despair, Casagemas committed suicide in a Paris restaurant on 17 February 1901. Picasso's life was so shaken by the death of his friend that he began to paint increasingly melancholy and sad canvases. An example of this is the film Old Blind Man with Boy which was made under the title "La vita (Life)" to show in an exhibition in 1903. This took place in the National Museum. The emotional and sentimental presence of the friend is therefore important for understanding Picasso's state of mind. Especially for one of Picasso's works that he had dedicated to his suicidal friend.

La Vita: a pessimistic work

If we look at the painting again, we can see two paintings fixed to the wall behind the figures. We are therefore in a studio, probably that of Picasso, who had a studio in Barcelona with Manuel Pallares. In the painting of Picasso's life resting on the floor, we see a sad woman, bent over; placed higher up, we see two lovers embracing, still in a state of pain. It is therefore a pessimistic, sad and melancholic painting in which carnal love, life and sharing are seen as causes of problems and dilemmas.

A biblical meaning

The painting of Picasso's la Vita could also have a biblical meaning and the two lovers represent Adam and Eve banished from Paradise for committing original sin, and thus condemning all men and women to perpetual suffering, as well as to impossible love. Perhaps this is why the sad, almost otherworldly face of the friend who was killed by an incomprehensible and unattainable love appears in the painting. Pablo Picasso did not want to paint symbols: he simply painted the images that formed before his eyes; and if others want to look for hidden meanings, let them. A painting, according to him, speaks of Picasso's life, and in the end, what is the point of giving explanations?
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