Pablo Picasso was born on October 25, 1881 in Malaga, Spain. As the son of an art professor he was freely able to flourish into the one of the most influential and renowned artists of the twentieth century. His father quickly recognized his son’s high aptitude for the arts and helped mentor him. At the age of thirteen his father believed Pablo had surpassed his own ability and enrolled his son to study art in Madrid and Barcelona. Picasso ability stretched over a wide spectrum of media including: painting, drawing, sculpting, ceramics, and even theatrical design.
As a teenager, Pablo Picasso rebelled against his art teachings, spending most of his time in Madrid’s Prado, a museum displaying works of El Greco and Francisco Goya. In his twenties, Picasso moved to France to endure the life of a “starving artist,” allowing his work grow and change as he did. His life’s work has been categorized into periods which clearly depict his mentality and challenges he was met with at the time. Today, Pablo Picasso’s work has led the path for realism and abstraction, Cubism, Neoclassicism, Surrealism, and Expressionism.
Picasso’s Blue Period took place from 1901 until 1904. At this point in time the artist was living intermittently between Spain and France and was suffering from a dark clouded mental state. During this time Picasso was living in poverty and would often burn his own artwork to survive. His works often depicted the somber society in which he was immersed. The representation of malnutrition, poverty, prostitution, loneliness, and despair were often themes within his work. Throughout this period, Picasso’s pallet consisted of mainly blues, and green-blues, that on occasion were warmed by other colors. One of his most famous pieces from this period was the painting, La Vie.
This painting was inspired by the suicide of Picasso’s dear friend, Carlos Casagemas, which depicted his internal torment amongst a past lover. During this phase Picasso’s work was greatly influenced by El Greco, featuring elongated figures. When Picasso permanently rooted in France, his work focused on lighter topics. During his Rose Period, 1904-1906, it can be noted that the artist’s mentality had begun to improve as he seemed to escape his deep depression. At this time, Picasso had gained popularity within society and had regular patrons of his work, Gertrude and Leo Stein.
The artist would often paint cheerful scenes of circus clowns and harlequins that were created in beautiful oranges and pinks. In addition, Picasso had taken bohemian artist, Fernande Olivier, as his lover and often used her as the muse of his work. One of Picasso’s most famous pieces from the Rose Period, is a portrait done of Gertrude Stein. The portrait depicts the patron with a pale face in a cascading black robe and matching turban, its background contrasts her face with deep red and mauve tones. Ms. Stein posed for the portrait on eighty different occasions until Picasso decided to scrap the painting unfinished.
Today this piece is one of Picasso’s most famous portraits created through his career. Picasso’s relationship with the Stein siblings paved the pathway into his African Influence Period, 1907-1909. The Stein siblings hosted weekly gatherings in their home, where great modern artists and thinkers were brought together and flourish. The guests in attendance were dubbed the School of Paris and often inspired each other. At these parties, Picasso and the other friends of the School of Paris, were first introduced to African style of primitivism, a style that was brought into light by Paul Cezanne.
The death of artist Paul Cezanne, began the cascade of influence that would shape Picasso’s life forever. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was Picasso’s first masterpiece in this new style. It depicts five women composed of flat dimensional shapes with facial features inspired by traditional African masks. The painting shattered the art world and was thought to be the most innovating work of its time. Picasso finally felt that he had freed himself with this new way of expression. He no longer tied himself down to European influence and felt courage to create his own artist pathway. This work showed the process in which Picasso elevated himself from traditional European painting into the early stages of Cubism.
Picasso’s Cubist Period took place from 1909 until 1919. His influence from Cezanne and School of Paris friend, Henri Rousseau, fueled his fire of giving his figures more structure. With the help of his friend, Georges Braque, Picasso began to experiment with shapes and colors laying the foundation of cubism. This new style of art strayed from conventional technique of art that became popular during the Renaissance. Cubism allowed Picasso the ability to create three-dimensional objects come to life on a two-dimensional canvas. During this time, Picasso focused on using a more neutral palate than of those in his previous periods. He often found inspiration in taking apart objects and studying their organic and inorganic shapes.
Later, as Picasso began Synthetic Cubism, he experimented with different textures in order to change perception and depth. Picasso was inspired by everything that surrounded him. He often collaged newspaper or tobacco leaves into his paintings which allowed admirers to question what was real and what was painted. He also achieved this by adding vibrant colors to his works, helping Picasso to modify the decorative features of each piece. This way of art would forever change the world. After World War I, Picasso detoured away from cubism. He traveled to Italy for the first time and was inspired traditional Italian classism paintings. With his skills, he created mythological creatures—fawns, centaurs, and nymphs—within his own modern style. This tribute to classic Italian art style was referred to as Neoclassism.
During this period, Picasso contributed his work to the beauty of motherhood. Inspired by the birth of his first child, he painted Woman in White. This neoclassic painting depicts a mother-to-be in a white, flowing gown. Her hair falls in romantic tousles around her face and shoulders as she stares calmly off into the distance. As the 1920’s came to an end, Pablo found himself gravitating towards surrealist style art. This style consists of figures that are morphed and distorted. With new inspiration rising from a young lover, he found new liberty within his work. His piece, Reading at a Table, shows a woman with sloping features reading at a large table.
Her body is small but full, this was meant by Picasso to show youth and innocence. At this time, the artist uses a spectrum of color for the painting’s focal points and a deep purple background to contrast. Picasso’s optimism for life quickly waned as the Spanish Civil War took place in 1936. His despair was brought to life through his work as graphic images created in muted grey tones. In 1937, he created the large-scale anti-war mural, Guernica, for the Spanish Pavilion of the Exposition Universelle in Paris. This surrealist painting was created in dark black, blues and white to relay torment throughout society. One portion of the piece focuses on woman on her knees clinging onto the body of a lifeless child as she cries out to the sky. Another portion shows a body sprawled on the ground being trampled by animals in distress.
This masterpiece was created to express Picasso’s disgust toward bombings that took place in Basque town, Guernica. As his life progressed, Picasso enjoyed creating a wide variety of media. He experimented with size and color of his paintings and sculptures. At this time in his life, Picasso began to reminisce about artists that had influenced him at a young age. For this, he created pieces of art in each of the artist’s unique styles. Upon finding new love in the 1950’s, Pablo returned to creating mythological figures. In his work, Fawn with Stars, he depicts in black and blue, himself as a fawn infatuated with a lovely young nymph who plays a woodland instrument. These works that were completed within his final years are referred to as Neo-Expressionism.
Picasso held many art exhibits worldwide. In 1957, a retrospective exhibit held in New York, had 100,000 visitors within its first month of opening. The overwhelming number of admirers that came to appreciate his work confirmed the impact Pablo Picasso left on the world. Throughout his life, Pablo Picasso detoured from tradition and paved the way for modern art. His artistic spectrum and innovated genius allowed him to capture and entice his audience, securing himself as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.