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Puzzles by Tuum Est ˆ

The Cubist Painter

Rhyme and Reason

The Cubist Painter: Starting Hint


Start the chart by filling in the column of offset distances.

Starting Hint

Only two pairs of offsets differ by exactly 1.0 cm.

Juan Gris: Portrait of Pablo Picasso (1912)
Portrait of Pablo Picasso
by Cubist Painter Juan Gris (1912)

A Cubist drew eight hypercubes,
But found he used too many tubes
Of paint in deepest cobalt blue.
Said he, I need another hue!

Sienna pigment’s in supply;
I’ll cater to vox populi,
And blend a portrait of a man
O’er top my geometric plan.

He coached the model Ruiz on mien
Whose shoulders wide befit the theme;
Those angled cheeks, lopsided smile,
Lent strength and humor to an oil.

The face he daubed in subtle beige
With brush-strokes matte – no sacrilege.
But lining up the eyes and nose?
Nay – these in art we juxtapose!

One eye went north, an ear slid west,
The nose walked south toward the vest.
How much is yours to calculate,
You have ten clues to cogitate.

Picasso's name in Spanish is Pablo Ruiz y Picasso.
Ruiz is pronounced rue-EES or rees.


  • Juan Gris, the artist in the poem, painted his portrait of Ruiz over six successive days. The features placed on canvas were so exquisite that Gris never went back to retouch on later days.
  • Each day, in vibrant cubist style, Gris chose to offset one different feature from its normal position on the canvas. One such feature was the hand holding the palette in the portrait.
  • The hard-edged gradations of color allowed the offsets to be easily measured. Each offset was a different distance from among 1.0cm, 1.5cm, 2.5cm, 3.0cm, 4.0cm, and 4.5cm.
  • To occupy Ruiz and keep his face relaxed during the long sittings, and not least to inspire the artist as he painted, Gris encouraged discussion of artistic topics – a different one each day. One was African masks.
  • For each day – Day 1 through Day 6 – can you deduce the feature Gris chose to offset, the distance of its offset, and what topic was discussed?

Clues to Cogitate

  1. 1. By the end of the first day, the portrait didn't yet have an ear.
  2. 2. Gris offset the triangle of the nose, but not on the first day or third day.
  3. 3. The feature with the 1.5-cm offset was painted the day before faceting was discussed.
  4. 4. When Gris offset the nose, he was not inspired by a lively discussion of collage or crystalline geometry.
  5. 5. On the day faceting was discussed, Gris offset a feature exactly 1.0cm less than the nose was, or would be.
  6. 6. Collage was discussed some day before Gris offset the left eye, but some day after he offset the sideburn.
  7. 7. The cheekbone (which did not benefit from the collage discussion) was, on a past or future day, offset exactly 1.0 cm more than the feature inspired by the discussion of stage design.
  8. 8. The ear was offset exactly 0.5cm more than the feature that was, or would be, offset during the discussion of collage.
  9. 9. Crystalline geometry was discussed the day after Gris offset the cheekbone.
  10. 10. Pacifism was discussed, but not on the first day or last day.

The Cubist Painter:  Fill-In Chart Chart Hint

 Day   Feature 
 Day   Feature 
       1.0 cm   
       1.5 cm   
       2.5 cm   
       3.0 cm   
       4.0 cm   
       4.5 cm   


Major museums publish meditations on Cubism, its history, and how to interpret this visual language. Cubism and other abstract art forms emerged as the inevitable consequence of the invention of the camera. Photography replaced painting as the tool for documenting reality. Real-life representation – the landscape or portrait of classicist quality – was now common currency. That left a vacuum for the narrative role of art. In 1907 Cubism was imagined by Pablo Ruiz y Picasso, the Spaniard with somber, piercing eyes. Essays of interest:

Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia
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Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

Pablo Picasso

The Cubist Painter: Offsets

By tradition, logic puzzles are completely self-contained. Such puzzles rely solely on reasoning; real-world facts and knowledge play no part.

The cornerstone of the puzzle on this page is a portrait on exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The painting is real, but the puzzle clues and instructions are fictional. In fairness we say: put the ruler away; spend no time measuring the image of the painting.

Copyright © 2008-2019 Georgena Sil. All Rights Reserved.