13 PICASSO – White Faces & Harlequins

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here’s a picture Pablo Picasso painted. The man looks normal, but the lady has a white face. No one has a face that white.

Picasso - Harlequins

Below is another picture Picasso painted of people with white faces. 

Picasso - Harlequin

Do you see that the man is in profile and the woman is from the front. Look at the lady in the first picture.

But why is Picasso painting their faces white? If you look at their clothes you can get a hint. The men in the pictures are wearing clothes that have lots of diamond shapes on them. Those are costumes. 

These people with white faces are circus performers. The men in the diamond costumes are called harlequins  (It’s pronounced HAR-leh-kwin.) A harlequin is a clown. Aha! Now you know that you have seen people with white faces, too. Circus clowns paint their faces white.

In the United States our clowns not only paint their faces white, they paint on a huge smile or a frown, put on a big red nose and a silly wig, and wear baggy clothes with giant shoes.


Not all clowns everywhere look that way, but most clowns do have white faces, like the people in these paintings.

Some clowns have white faces, wear white gloves, and pretend they can’t talk. They act out a story with their body movements. They are called mimes.


Harlequins, like the ones in Picasso’s paintings, were also acrobats. They did somersaults, cartwheels, and flips while acting out a story. The diamond shapes on their costumes were supposed to be patches on their old clothes, but over time they just became pretty designs.

Remember that I told you that Picasso liked diamond-shaped designs. That’s one reason he liked harlequins so much. But do you remember the wallpaper in the painting of the lady sleeping in a chair?

Picasso - Original Woman-b2 And the wallpaper behind the girl in front of a mirror? PIcasso - Girl & Mirror-c

There is even a name for wallpaper with a diamond pattern. It’s called “Harlquin Wallpaper.” Let’s make some Harlequin Wallpaper like Picasso.

First draw a box with diamond shapes. 

Harlequin Wallpaper 01

I used a computer, so my lines are straight. If yours are crooked, it’s OK. Look at Picasso’s.

Now color the diamond shapes. Pick some colors that look good together. Try using three colors, and try not to let any one color be in two boxes that are touching, except at the points.

Harlequin Wallpaper 02

This may sound easy, but I found it hard to get one that looked pretty. You may have to try more than one.



About majchr

Majora Christo
This entry was posted in Art, Children & Art, Drawing, Painting and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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