Henri Laurens (1885-1954), Musical Instrument, 1919
In his early works, Henri Laurens, like Braque and Picasso, was interested in breaking away from traditional naturalism to create a multi-faceted impression of the chosen subject instead. In this case, the subject is a motif much favoured by the Cubists: a guitar.
The guitare as motif
The guitar’s body, neck, and head have been fragmented into individual parts with a convex navel, placed where the sound hole would have been, as the pivot. Truncated cones, wedges, and planes have been placed at staggered angles around this axis. The whole becomes a rhythmic interplay between edges and curves, all gathered in a compact, upright composition.
A Cubist highlight
The sculpture is a highlight among Laurens’ Cubist painted terracotta pieces from the period 1917-20; works that constitute an extension of his collage experiments. In 1918 Laurens introduced another medium in his paper collages and wood and iron sculptures: corrugated paper. It often served to represent guitar strings. In this sculpture, however the guitar strings have been reduced to a two-dimensional sign, painted onto the sculpture with three black lines rhythmically repeated at the bottom. This solution shows how Laurens defies the boundaries of any given medium by transferring devices from painting to sculpture.