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The Bullfight (Courses de taureaux)

Pablo Picasso

Artwork Details

The Bullfight (Courses de taureaux)
Pablo Picasso
oil on canvas
17 3/8 in. x 22 11/16 in. x 1 15/16 in. ( 44.13 cm x 57.63 cm x 4.92 cm )
Gift of The Carey Walker Foundation


March 28, 2009
The Bullfight depicts the climax of the elemental struggle between man and beast; in this case, the toreador’s courage and wit have prevailed in the face of brute force. It was painted in the period when Picasso’s style was characterized by intense color and flowing, lyrical forms—which some have interpreted as the effect of his relationship with his young mistress Marie-Thérèse. Here, these are deployed to communicate the thrill of the moment and roar of the crowd.
Picasso used the bull as a metaphor throughout his work. Although the artist, as a rule, refused to explain his symbolism, his bulls have variously been interpreted as icons representing the Spanish people, a comment on fascist brutality, and a self-referential image. He uncharacteristically admitted that in Guernica, his 1939 masterwork of political protest in response to the ruthless massacre of 1,600 civilians in a period of three hours by the Fascist war machine, the bull represented the forces of darkness while the horse stood for the Spanish people.
Earlier in the summer of 1934, when The Bullfight was painted, Picasso followed the running of the bulls in Spain; he never returned to his native country after this visit.

Subject Matter:

The Bullfight was with Picasso's dealer at the Paul Rosenberg & Co. New York, the date is not specifcally documented. In 1973 it was in an exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum, according to the sticker on the back of the liner, the given owner is the Carey Walker Foundation. After being donated to the museum, "The Bullfight" was in an exhibition at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, Spain from Oct. 9, 1993 to Jan. 9, 1994. The transportation sticker to Madrid, Spain with the University of Michigan as a lender, was presumably connected to that loan.
Anne F. Malley
History of Art 399
-supervised by A. Dixon

Physical Description:

A bull in the center charges to the left toward a horse rearing up with a bullfighter on its back. The bullfighter leans forward to plunge a spear into the bull's shoulder area. Flags and spectator stands lie in the background.

Usage Rights:

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