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A Comparison: The “Truth” in Realism and Altered Art

Artists use different methods to portray the truth about the world. Realists and altered art artists are an example of the different techniques that artists use to portray the truth. Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, a realist picture conveys a view of the truth while Picasso’s Bull’s Head depicts another view of the world. Da Vinci uses complex techniques in Mona Lisa to show that the truth of the world is defined by outward appearances while Picasso’s Bull’s Head expresses the truth as a product of human imagination.

Da Vinci in Mona Lisa and Picasso in Bull’s Head use different techniques to portray the “truth” of the world. In Mona Lisa, Da Vinci uses various complex techniques to bring out a realistic and honest view of everyday life. For example, Da Vinci uses a complex coloring technique called sfumato whereby he creates smooth transitions between colors as well as light and shade to bring out the life of the painting (Clark). On the curved surfaces of the painting such as the outline of the woman’s face, eyes, and hair, there is a smooth transition of light and shade, with almost no clear boundaries between these transitions (Clark). The complexity of the Mona Lisa can also be seen in how the size, perspective, and space of the painting are manipulated in such a way that the lady is tilted toward the viewer. Picasso in his Bull’s Head uses a direct technique, welding, and does not attempt to disguise the fact that the materials of the artwork are a bicycle seat and handlebars. However, these components are smoothly welded together, creating a seamless transition between the handlebars and the bicycle seat (Green). Using these different techniques, the artists portray their view of the truth of the world.

Da Vinci and Picasso aim for two different “truths” in their use of these different techniques. Da Vinci uses complex coloring, perspectives, and spacing to create a life-like version of a person. Da Vinci in this painting aims to portray the truth as a complex mix of mundane everyday experiences. The painting, while complex in technique, presents what appears like a normal human being. However, underneath this apparent mundaneness is the complexity of the different emotions depicted in the painting (Clark). While the lady in the Mona Lisa is smiling, it is difficult to tell the reality of her experience. Da Vinci is trying to express the significance of outward experiences and even more, the secrets that these outward experiences conceal. Picasso, on his part, uses simplicity to present the truth as a product of human imagination (Green). The Bull’s Head which presents a sense of life from lifeless bicycle parts is an attempt to show that human imagination defines the reality of the world and the meaning of things.

Da Vinci’s realist Mona Lisa and Picasso’s altered art Bull’s Head show how realists aim to show the truth in mundane everyday experiences while artists of altered art show that the truth is a product of human imagination. Da Vinci uses complex painting techniques to portray a familiar face depicting normal experiences to show how the truth is defined by outward experiences. Picasso uses simple welding techniques and converts lifeless objects to a figure that is reminiscent of life to show that the truth of the world is all about human imagination.

Works Cited

Clark, Kenneth. “Mona Lisa.” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 115, no. 840, The Burlington Magazine Publications Ltd., 1973, pp. 144–51,

Green, Jon D. “Picasso’s Visual Metaphors.” Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 19, no. 4, University of Illinois Press, 1985, pp. 61–76,


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