Picasso on a Bicycle

I don’t know how I’ve functioned as an art historian without seeing this Monty Python clip about Picasso on a bicycle:

I found this clip after coming across another art history blog, Art History Ramblings. The author Catherine lists as many artists as she was able to hear in the clip, and I couldn’t decipher the others ones shouted by John Cleese.

So now I propose a game, readers. Do you know of any the artists mentioned in this clip which actually depict a bicycle in their art? (And I don’t think that I heard Duchamp listed in the clip, so you can’t choose his Bicycle Wheel (original of 1913). That’s too easy, anyway.)  I’m not too savvy on bicycle art, but I do have one contribution:

Georges Braque, My Bicycle (Mon Velo), 1941-60
This painting is in a private collection, so I don’ t know much about it. But it is briefly mentioned in this MOMA biography on Braque
Happy bicycle hunting! And happy weekend!
  • Catherine says:

    Awesome little fact.

  • obridge says:

    Er…. How about Picasso's fabulous "Bull's Head." See: http://tinyurl.com/25gkyqo
    But does it "depict" a bicycle? Discuss!

  • obridge says:

    Another way to think about this: which artists SHOULD they have included in this skit for maximum "bike resonance." I nominate Vlaminck, who was apparently a pretty serious cyclist. And also Alphonse Mucha, who designed some ads for a bike maker. See: http://tinyurl.com/34cs843

  • M says:

    Hey, I love Chagall's "Bicycle Ride." I'd never seen that before. Awesome.

    Obridge, I think you came up with a very clever response. Even if the bull's head doesn't "depict" a bicycle, the Monty Python clip gives a new meaning to that sculpture. (Don't you think that most people think of a bicycle seat when seeing "Bull's Head," regardless of the title or usage of the seat? Perhaps because the sculpture always suggests bicycles, it can be argued that it indirectly "depicts" a bicycle?)

    Yeah, Vlaminck should have been included in the clip. Good point. Duchamp should have been mentioned, too. I'm not familiar with Alphonse Mucha, but his ads are totally appropriate.

  • nicoleg says:

    The curator of our Picasso show has been recounting something she read or heard that goes something like this: Picasso liked to say that he hoped people would look at his sculpture and think “what a nice sculpture of a bull. Those horns would be really great as handles for my bicycle.”

    I’ll have to ask her for her source.

    – Nicole at Seattle Art Museum

  • H Niyazi says:

    Bicycles proliferate in 20th Century art in particular, but did appear before then too.

    The image I recalled was a poster by Toulouse Lautrec – which is now in San Diego I believe. I found a pic here


    It's great you discovered Catherine's blog!


  • nicoleg says:

    Just got this from Seattle Art Museum's curaotr working on our Picasso show:

    “Finally, I made this handlebar and seat a bull’s head that everyone recognized as a bull’s head. The metamorphosis was accomplished and I wish another metamorphosis would occur in the reverse sense. If my bull’s head were thrown in a junk heap, perhaps one day some boy would say: ‘Here’s something which would make a good handlebar for my bicycle . . . ‘ Thus, a double metamorphosis would have been accomplished.”

    From a 1945 interview, reprinted in Dore Ashton, Picasso on Art.

    Slightly different wording in a 1965 interview (also in Ashton):

    “One day I took the seat and the handlebars. I put one on top of the other and I made a bull’s head. Well and good. But what I should have done was to throw away the bull’s head. Throw it in the street, in the stream, anyway, but throw it away. Then a worker would have passed by. He’d have picked it up. And he’d have found that, perhaps, he could make a bicycle seat and handlebars with that bull’s head. And he’d have done it . . . . That would have been magnificent. That’s the gift of metamorphosis.”

  • M says:

    nicoleg: Thanks for this quote and the citation! I love it, and I'm sure that obridge will like it was well. Picasso was such a sly lil' devil with his metamorphosis idea.

    By the way, I'm really looking forward to the Picasso exhibition. I've been promoting it to my art history students, and they seem really excited.

    H Niyazi: That's a great turn-of-the-century example by Toulouse-Lautrec. I've never seen that poster either; it's a lot of fun.

    This post has got me thinking about when bicycles began to appear in art. Although it appears that circular contraptions existed earlier than the 19th century, the first modern bicycle dates back to 1817. This machine, invented by Karl von Drais, was called a "Draisine" in English. Just for fun, you can see Drais' 1817 design here. Pretty fun stuff.

  • obridge says:

    I had a hunch that there must be at least one futurist bicycle painting out there. Here it is (Boccioni's Dynamism of a Cyclist):

    And of the subject of Art History & Monty Python, there's this (which my students always enjoy):


  • M says:

    obridge, I'm not surprised that there is at least one Futurist painting with a bicycle. I actually had wondered the same thing. Thanks for the Boccioni link!

    I love that other Monty Python clip, too. (Well, I love Monty Python in general.) I've seen the Michelangelo clip before, but it's been a long time. Thanks for the laugh.

  • Catherine says:

    I agree with everyone, they should have at least included a Futurist/Dadaist bicyclist.

Email Subscription



This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.