Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

By applying analytic cubism to the traditional still life, Picasso reconfigured representation to convey the atomized, fragmented, and time-based nature of perception. Here careful inspection reveals a mountain of stationery and writing implements topped by an inkwell emerging from a flickering pattern of black, brown, gray, and white brushstrokes. The exposed patches of unpainted canvas depict paper or a tabletop while providing an insistent reminder of the nature of the painting as a visually impenetrable object. Like the written words to which the paper and ink allude, the painting is a system of signs that the viewer must interpret.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Spanish (Malaga, Spain 1881 - 1973 Mougins, France)
Still Life with Inkwell
Work Type
c. 1911-1912
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1300, Modern and Contemporary Art, Early Modernism
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
33.02 x 45.72 cm (13 x 18 in.)
framed: 65.3 x 52.2 x 4.3 cm (25 11/16 x 20 9/16 x 1 11/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: on verso: Picasso (?)
[Buchholz Gallery, New York], sold; to Lois Orswell, 1949, bequest; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1998.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, The Lois Orswell Collection
© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Publication History

Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 187, fig. 160

Exhibition History

Five Modern Old Masters, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 10/25/1950 - 11/26/1950

[Benefit exhibition for the Boston Arts Festival], Margaret Brown Gallery, Boston, 05/08/1956 - 05/29/1956

Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/21/2002 - 02/16/2003

Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011

HAA 10 Survey Course (S421): The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance (Fall 08 Rotation 3), Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/20/2008 - 02/08/2009

32Q: 1300 Early Modernism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at