Pablo Picasso’s “Girl on a Balloon”: What secrets does this painting hide?

Pablo Picasso’s “Girl on a Balloon”: What secrets does this painting hide?

A fragile girl and a powerful athlete, an unstable ball and a solid cube… How are they related? What is the meaning of these contrasts? What signs did the artist hide in the famous painting and what do they mean?

According to Pablo Picasso, the painting depicts a wandering group of acrobats, but only two characters occupy most of the canvas: a fragile gymnast (who rehearses a circus number, balancing on a ball) and a powerful athlete (who sits nearby, resting).

This painting is full of inner drama and is built on the juxtaposition of contrasts. The landscape depicted is a bleak, sun-scorched, hilly plain, and we also see that a country road stretches across it, where the trolley of a traveling circus has stopped. A random passerby with a child, a dog and a grazing white horse are depicted in the background.

Pablo Picasso's "Girl on a Balloon": What secrets does this painting hide?

The moody background contrasts with the cheerful craft of the performers working amidst a noisy cheerful crowd of spectators. The ball and the cube standing on the ground also represent opposites. Here Picasso plays up the contrast of movement and stillness. The girl sways gracefully, holding her balance, while the athlete sits frozen, like a monolith. He is practically fused into one with his pedestal, embodying immobility and permanence.

The fragile girl and the powerful athlete are two equal figures who form the central core of the composition. The gymnast nonchalantly demonstrates her skills to her father, but he does not look at her: his gaze is turned inward, he is immersed in thoughts about the fate of his family.

These images, in stark contrast to one another, symbolically resemble scales (when it is not clear which of the bowls will tip the balance). This is the main idea of the painting: the hope that is pinned on the future of the children is contrasted with the doom. And their chances are equal. The fate of the family is left to fate.

Pablo Picasso's "Girl on a Balloon": What secrets does this painting hide?

Yes, there are sexual overtones in the picture, and this is obvious. The man’s reaction is quite interesting: he does not give in to temptation, does not respond to the sexual provocations of the girl who seduces him. If he were to acknowledge her right to an adult sex life, it would cause her to fall off the ball.

She maintains her equilibrium by the fact that he is stable, dependable, steady in his paternal role. He does not forbid her to dance in front of him, does not forbid her to seduce him. He gives her that space to develop.

But it is obvious that there is a struggle going on inside him as well. It is no coincidence that his face is turned to the side: in order to cope with arousal and conquer his feelings, he is not allowed to look at the girl. The intense blue color of his swim trunks and the fabric on which he sits emphasizes the conflict between arousal and prohibition.

The object the athlete is holding in his hand is very similar to a weight (4). It is located right at the level of his genitals. He can’t place it for some reason. And this is an additional sign of instability. We also can see how hard his back muscles are tensed. By holding the weight, the athlete is fighting the sexual tension within himself. Without realizing it, he is afraid that if he sets the weight down and relaxes, he may be at the mercy of the sexual feeling and succumb to it.

Pablo Picasso's "Girl on a Balloon": What secrets does this painting hide?

In the background we see the figure of a mother gymnast (5) with her children, a dog and a white horse. The black dog (6), as a rule, was a symbol of death and served as a mediator between different worlds. The white horse (7) here acts as a symbol of destiny and has long been endowed with the ability to foretell it.

Pablo Picasso's "Girl on a Balloon": What secrets does this painting hide?

Symbolically, the mother’s back is turned to the girl in the ball. When a woman cares for an infant, she shifts all attention to him, psychologically detaching herself from the older children, and they begin to feel frustration. And they turn to their father in search of his love, attention and support. This moment is vividly shown here – both girls turn away from the mother and look in the father’s direction.

As for the presence of the horse. In psychoanalysis, the horse symbolizes passion, the wild unconscious. But here we see a white horse (7) peacefully grazing, located right between the athlete and the gymnast. We can assume that it symbolizes the possibility of integration, of positive development. It is a sign of hope that forbidden sexual tension will subside and passions will be tamed.

The excitement will encourage the development of each. The girl will grow up to feel emotional and sexy with another man, and the athlete will be a mature father to his children and a reliable husband to his woman.

We suppose many are still wondering why the man is sitting on a cube and his kettlebell has such a bizarre spherical shape.

Pablo Picasso's "Girl on a Balloon": What secrets does this painting hide?

The sphere (8) has always been considered one of the most perfect and significant geometric figures, it represents harmony and the divine beginning. An even ball with an ideal surface has always been associated with happiness, absence of obstacles and difficulties in life. But the ball under the girl’s feet has an irregular geometric shape and tells us about her difficult fate.

The cube (9) symbolizes the earthly, mortal, material world (Picasso probably wanted to convey the circus world to which the athlete belongs). The cube looks like a box for storing circus props, and the father is ready to give them to his daughter, but does not want to reveal the whole truth of circus life to her yet: he would like a better fate for his children.

Curiously, the figure of the athlete himself is painted with a predominance of light, pinkish hues (the same as in the background landscape). And this is no coincidence. The other, better world is somewhere beyond the hills, and it is from there that the divine light emanates, symbolizing hope (because the athlete himself, in spite of everything, remains a hope for the girl and the family).

Red is associated with a vivid, openly displayed sexuality. It’s as if only the little girl in the red dress has it (10). Children at this age do not yet know excessive inhibitions, they can have different infantile sexual fantasies. She is still firmly on her feet, she is still far from a man and is not afraid of getting burned.

The girl in the balloon is like a butterfly next to a fire. Her purple is associated with excitement and tension, but it does not turn into intense blue, the color of total prohibition. Interestingly, it is the combination of red and blue that gives the purple color.


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