Many people recognize the names Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky. Both men were influential figures of the 1900s; Picasso was an artist known for experimenting in cubism and Stravinsky was a composer known for his ballet scores. When asked about the two, people think of Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror, or sing a few bars of Stravinsky's Firebird, but do not realize that they were connected. Not only did the two men share many of the same ideas, but they also collaborated together and were friends for a time.

How could an artist and a musician be so closely related? For starters, Picasso and Stravinsky were involved in similar schools of thought before they even met. In the early 20th century, many artists began to stray from the traditional paths of Romanticism. Picasso turned away from tradition for the first time in 1907, when he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, which is considered to be the first real work of cubism. Les Demoiselles was controversial because it depicted prostitutes staring directly at the audience, which was an entirely new and unconventional way of depicting the female nude. In 1913, Stravinsky turned to primitivism himself with his controversial ballet Le Sacre du Printemps ("The Rite of Spring"). It depicts a scene from pagan Russia, showing how a maiden must be sacrificed in order for spring to return to the land. The dark subject matter, atonal chords, and stomping dancers disturbed the audience and caused a riot on the opening night.
Les Demoiselles D'Avignon (1907)
Dancers from the original production of Le Sacre (1913)

Les Demoiselles and Le Sacre have many formal aspects in common. The sharp angles found in Picasso's painting are also seen in Vaslav Nijinsky's choreography, and the subjects of both works stare directly at the audience. They are also both heavily influenced by primitivism. This can be seen in the faces of Les Demoiselles, as they appear to be wearing African masks. The forms of the women are also distorted and unnatural, influenced more by geometry than by anatomy. Primitivism is shown in Le Sacre through the irregular rhythms, the shifting patterns, and the dominance of one note over the others. Along with tribal African music, composers such as Stravinsky were also influenced by Eastern European folk music; for example, the famous bassoon solo which opens the piece is taken from a Lithuanian folk song. Both works are also fragmented, which can be seen in the cut-and-paste style of Picasso's art and the juxtaposition of various melodies, harmonies, and rhythms in Stravinsky's music.
Audio: The Rite of Spring (Dance of the Young Girls, Mock Abduction)

Even though Picasso and Stravinsky were so similar, the two did not meet until 1917 in Naples, Italy. The two were able to meet through the Ballets Russes, directed by Serge Diaghilev; Stravinsky had rose to fame by composing The Firebird for the Ballet in 1910, and Picasso had done the set design for the ballet Parade in the months before the two met. Stravinsky arrived in Rome on April 5th, 1917, and by April 16th he and Picasso traveled to Naples together. The pair became quite close, and they often toured Naples and drank together. They were also able to bond over commedia dell'arte, which is a type of Italian theater characterized by masked 'types', or stock characters. Both the artist and the composer were drawn to Pulcinella, a common character in commedia dell'arte; Pulcinella's character was, according to Stravinsky,
"a great drunken lout whose every gesture, and probably every word, if I had understood, was obscene (Source 1)". Picasso was also fascinated by the theater; he was drawn to the masks worm by the performers. The 1917 trip to Naples influenced Stravinsky and Picasso's greatest collaboration, Pulcinella.

Before Pulcinella, however, Picasso and Stravinsky collaborated together on several projects. For example, Stravinsky referenced cubism in his Sketch of Music for the Clarinet, which he gave to Picasso as a gift in 1918. The clarinet was one of Picasso's favorite subjects, and it appears in many of his works. Stravinsky also frequently changed the time signature, added tied notes, and, destabilizing the meter (the music seems like it could be in either 3/4 or 6/8); he does this to demonstrate how the conventional structures of music could be rearranged without breaking down its essence just as an image could be remade in Cubism. (Source 1). The elements of Cubism are obviously influenced by Picasso. In response to Stravinsky's piece, Picasso drew his friend three times, capturing both his likeness and his intense personality. The two were also able to collaborate on Ragtime, a piece written by Stravinsky in 1919. Picasso designed the art for the piece.

Picasso's art for Ragtime
One of Picasso's portraits of Stravinsky

The two artists' greatest collaboration occurred in 1920 when they worked together on the ballet Pulcinella. Diaghilev commissioned the work, which was based off traditional commedia dell'arte; the idea was also conceived by Leonide Massine, the choreographer. Diaghilev had suggested that Stravinsky write a ballet based off the music of 18th-century composer Pergolesi. Stravinsky originally refused, as he disliked Pergolesi's work, but when Diaghilev showed him some less-know manuscripts, Stravinsky was intrigued and agreed to work. Picasso was hired do design both the set and the costumes.

For Stravinsky, Pulcinella was a tuning point in his career, as it marks his transition towards neoclassicism. Instead of inventing new sounds (such as the chords used in le Sacre), he turned to the sounds of the past. Stravinsky orchestrated it for three vocalists, a solo string quartet, and a small orchestra; this was a departure from Stravinsky's usual scores, which called for enormous orchestras with more than 100 players. The composer used several of Pergolesi's manuscripts; however, 11 of the 19 movements turned out to be written by other composers who had affixed Pergolesi's name to their works so that they would become popular. Although he used it as a guide, Stravinsky did not leave the Pergolesi manuscripts untouched: he left the bass lines and melodies alone, but altered the rhythms, sonoritires, and harmonies in a brilliant combination of old and new, calling it, "the borrowed material...developed in an original way.” Diaghilev was not thrilled with Stravinsky's work, as he thought it was "offensive" to the 18th century manuscripts. Stravinsky, however, felt that his work was correct, saying, "I was . . . attacked for being a pasticheur, chided for composing "simple" music, blamed for deserting "modernism," accused of renouncing my "true Russian heritage." People who had never heard of, or cared about, the originals cried "sacrilege": "The classics are ours. Leave the classics alone." To them all my answer was and is the same: You "respect," but I love (Source 6)".

Audio: Pulcinella (Overture, Scherzino, Allegro, Adantino, Allegro)

Stravinsky later said, “Picasso accepted the commission to design [Pulcinella] for the same reason that I agreed to arrange the music—for the fun of it—and Diaghilev was as shocked with his set as he was by my sounds (Source 8)". The initial design was of a stage-within-a-stage, with theater boxes flanking a view of Naples with Vesuvius in the background. This use of a second stage, complete with couples in theater boxes, was meant to give the feel of a puppet show, such as the ones that had influenced Picasso on his first trip to Italy. However, Diaghilev rejected this design and destroyed some of Picasso's sketches by throwing them to the ground and stomping on them. This led to a redesigned Pulcinella, which was simpler and more cubist. The end result was a Neapolitan street with a view of the bay, a boat, and Vesuvius framed by white houses, and painted in shades of blue, gray, dark brown, and white; both Picasso and Diaghilev were happy with the final product. (Source 4) The costumes were influenced by commedia dell'arte; for example, the character of Pulcinella wears traditional dress: white clothes, a white hat, and a black mask with a beaked nose. These traditional costumes were juxtaposed against the cubist setting, showing Picasso's modernist take on classicism.

Original Set Design for Pulcinella (1920)
Massine playing Pulcinella; costume by Picasso

Despite the trouble that went into the production, Pulcinella was a great success. It first premiered on May 15th, 1920 at the Paris Opera House. Stravinsky remarked that it was, "one of those productions where everything harmonizes, where all the elements―subject, music, dancing, and artistic setting―form a coherent and homogeneous whole (Source 6)".

A Performance of Pulcinella

After Pulcinella, Picasso and Stravinsky went their separate ways; however, both would continue to be inspired by their collaboration. In 1922, Stravinsky turned Pulcinella into a concert suite, in which only 11 of the original movements were kept and the vocal parts were replaced by solo instruments. Picasso would also revisit the character of Pulcinella when he painted his Three Musicians in 1921; the clarinet player depicted in the painting is Pulcinella himself.

Three Musicians (1921)
Stravinsky's score for the Pulcinella suite

Stravinsky continued to explore neoclassicism with works such as the ballet Apollon Musagete, the oratorio Oedipus Rex, and the Concerto for Piano and Strings. He tried to reach a level of art that was more aesthetic than meaningful in order to make the listener focus on the pure sounds rather than emotions. Many of his pieces were characterized by "absolute forms', such as symphonies, sonatas, fugues, concerto grossos, and other forms of chamber music; they also displayed the classical virtues of balance, discipline, and order. (Source 7) Picasso also returned to more classical themes for a time; for example, he painted several more realistic portraits of his wife, Olga Khokhlova, a former dancer in the Ballets Russes. He was never able to completely part from cubism (Three Musicians is a work of cubism), so the two styles coexisted during his neoclassical period. This can be seen in his Two Women Running at the Beach, in which the classical women have distorted bodies and appear wild and chaotic. (Source 9) However, by the end of the 1920s Picasso had ended his experiments with neoclassicism, and he moved on to surrealism. Stravinsky, on the other hand, would continue to work with neoclassicism until the 1950s.

Two Women Running at the Beach (1922)

The friendship between Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky was legendary. Not only did it bring together two of the greatest geniuses of the twentieth century, it also unified music and art, and resulted in Pulcinella. Unfortunately, this was the final collaboration between the two. Their friendship was never again as strong as it was from 1917 to 1920; however, there was a mutual sense of respect between the two. In 1936, Stravinsky said that he, "admired [Picasso] in all his tendencies; he is always and consistently a great artist (Source 10)". It is very likely that Picasso felt the same way towards Stravinsky. Their collaboration was one of the best the world has ever known, the most perfect pairing since peanut butter and jelly, and music and art lovers everywhere are extremely lucky that the two decided to work together. The impact of Picasso and Stravinsky will never be forgotten.

Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky, and Olga Picasso (1925)