In this drawing the young Pablo Picasso focused his attention on a single cup, with its saucer and spoon - just these three objects and the interpretation of their spatial relationship. 'The Cup' belongs to a group of drawings and watercolours from the years 1908/09, when the artist made a study of containers and still lifes as subjects. This is the period when Picasso had left behind his early work with his painting of the 'Demoiselles d'Avignon' (1907, The Museum of Modern Art, New York) and was developing the foundations of Cubism.
Although Picasso provides no setting for the cup, it is standing firmly on a level conveyed optically through the base of the saucer, which provides support and which the author has visibly positioned horizontally to the image area. At the same time, this deep saucer, like the bulbous cup, is shown from a high angle, while the cup, like its handle, can also be seen from the side, and from below as well, where the shaft of the foot supports the cup. Finally, the upright spoon, which is shown almost in its entirety, rises up high above the interrupted outline of the rim of the cup and seems to be leading an unstable life of its own in its hemispherical container.
Picasso drew the contours of the cup with short, mostly rounded, rapidly placed chalk strokes, which are repeated and superimposed. The areas of shadow produce dynamic reflections but do not correspond to a uniform source of light. The artist captured the form of the cup in the drawing process without taking into account the materiality of the object. At the same time, by deviating from the rules of perspective, he gave it an increased volume through the multiple angles of view, allowing it literally to take independent possession of the space. This distracting and unprecedented perception of the object is based on Picasso's study of the works of Paul Cézanne, whose wide-ranging retrospective he had seen in Paris in 1907, a year after Cézanne's death. On the basis of Cézanne's demand that the subject of the picture be reduced to basic geometric forms, Picasso and Georges Braque developed the design principles of Cubism in 1908/09. They radically broke up objects and pictorial spaces, dissected them and showed their multiple facets.
Among the more than 20,000 drawings listed in Picasso's catalogue raisonné, 'The Cup' succinctly bears witness to the beginnings of Analytical Cubism through the example of the monumental staging of an everyday object.