PABLO PICASSO by Eduardo Vidal


From this class I have learned about many of the artists that have influenced art in general. From the "cave men painters" who inspired early and modern art, to the classical Renaissance painters, like Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and to the impressionists, among many others. However, the artist we talked about in this class that caused the greatest impression on me was Pablo Picasso. His art as well as his persona (with a unique personality) seem to have not just influenced painters, but seem also to have revolutionized modern art and influenced the world in general, in other words: Picasso was a unique genius. Therefore, I decided to write about Pablo Picasso’s life, his ideas and his contributions to art and to the world. I have used different sources for this research, but my main resource was "The Ultimate Picasso" by Brigitte Leal, Christine Piot, Marie-Laure Bernadac. This great book covers not just Picasso the artist, but also Picasso the man. Since I am not an art major or expert, but just a simple admirer of art, this paper will present Picasso’s life and contribution to art from a more historical perspective. Since the number of Picasso’s paintings is very large, I would not dare to try to talk about all of them, but instead I will divide this paper into an introduction covering his early life, a middle part discussing his periods and styles, and a conclusion focusing on his overall contributions as well as his personality.

Pablo Ruiz Picasso, the first child of Jose Juan Blasco and Maria Picasso y Lopez was born on October 25, 1881. His parents had two other children, Dolores and Conception. The family lived a simple life in Malaga in the southern part of Spain. Later the family moved to La Coruna (northern part of Spain). After a couple of years they moved again to Barcelona (on the East Coast of Spain). According to his mother, Picasso showed his passion for paintings for the first time when he said his first word: "piz, piz", meaning "pencil." Picasso never showed any interest for school except for classes related to art. By the age of eleven, the boy joined the School of Fine Arts, but his father, who was a drawing teacher and painter himself, taught most of what Picasso learned until then. Some of his childhood friends and family members believe he was a child prodigy, although his early drawings would not show the unique qualities of a genius. His first oil painting, which he kept his whole life was called "El Picador", a common theme in the bull fight scene. One think that was common in his drawings was the subject matter of pigeons and bullfights.


By 1895, when the family was living in Barcelona, Picasso’s artistic abilities became clearer than ever. He passed his entrance examination in classical art and still life at the same school, showing better works than the senior students in their final examination. In 1896, his first large oil painting "The First Communion" was exhibited in Barcelona.


The year after, he painted "Science and Charity " and received an honorable mention in Madrid at the national exhibition of fine art and a gold medal in a competition in Malaga. It is important to note that at that point he was only 16 years old. With financial help from his uncle he moved to Madrid to study at the Royal Academy of San Fernando, but soon decided that going to the Prado museum was more important than taking art classes, so he dropped out of the Royal Academy. His visits to museums became very important in this first period of his career, because like many other modern artists, Picasso had his "classicism period" when he tried to imitate the style of the old masters.


In 1898, Picasso returned to Barcelona for medical reasons. The move back to Barcelona would change his life in many different ways. He started to frequent "The Four Cats" a popular café among artists and intellectuals. There he met the artists of the Spanish Modernism movement, like Santiago Rusiñol, and painters like Carlos Casagemas. He also met someone who would become one of his best friends and his secretary, the poet Jaime Sabartés. The new atmosphere made the young artist abandon his classic style and start a period of searching and encountering new experiences in his career. During this period, Picasso expressed his idea that an art student should not be obligated to follow any already established school, but should be free to explore his or her own styles and ideas. This search for change caused deterioration in his relationship with his parents who could not accept his interest in modern art.

In 1900, during this search period, Picasso moved to the city that was the major artistic center, Paris, where he opened a studio at the bohemian Montmartre Place. Pedro Manach offered Picasso’s first contract (150 Francs per month). The first picture he painted in Paris was "Le Moulin de la Galette" in which one can notice that Picasso’s style had changed and that he had left his classical style behind. Here we can see the change in subject matter (now the nightlife in Paris) and in the use of colors and brush strokes (brighter colors with image that is not clear, just like a picture taken while people are moving). In relation to Picasso the person, I might add that even though he established himself in Paris, he kept traveling back and forth to many places in Europe (especially Spain), showing one of his trade marks: never settling down in a specific place while living restlessly for most of his life.

Picasso’s career was well defined by different periods. Between 1901 and 1906 he worked under the "blue and rose" periods. Picasso used almost exclusively blue and pink colors in his paintings. There was a kind of sadness in his works, because of the suicide of the painter Casagemas in 1901.

  Picasso’s paintings "Death of Casanovas" and "Evocation-The Burial of Casagemas" (where we can see the influence of El Greco) represent how Picasso felt about his friend’s death. As the artist himself said: "I began to paint in blue, when I realized that Casagemas had died."


In 1904 Picasso met a married model called Fernande Olivier and they became lovers. Their relationship lasted for about seven years. They used to go to the Circus Medrano where Picasso got his ideas for his circus themes. Picasso used to frequent the bar "Le Lapin Agile" where he met the poets Guillaume Apollinaire and Max Jacob. An interesting fact is that Picasso used his paintings as payment for the services at the bar. Some of the paintings that could be seen on the bar walls were "Dans Le Lapin Agile" and "Woman with the Crow" :


By 1905 he added pink and rose, some shades of yellow and also gray colors. His figures also became more delicate and sensible. By 1906 Picasso was able to sell most of his "rose period" work, which helped him to resolve his financial problems. In the same year, he traveled with his lover Fernande to Spain, where he painted "La Toilette." He also started to work with geometric forms.



His next period was between 1907 and 1917. This period was very important not just as Picasso’s (as well as Braque's) career, but also as one of the most influential styles of art of our times. It was called Cubism. The first cubist painting was "Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon" painted in 1907, during the "negro period". Picasso’s fascination for African masks and sculptures were the inspiration for most of this period. He mixed primitive art and his own style and created Cubism. This new style was also very controversial among people. Some liked it some hated it.



Picasso’s friend, George Braque, started to collaborate with him in cubism works. In 1908 both artists realized they had painted similar pictures but in a completely independent way from each other. Cubism was divided in two periods. First, it was "analytical cubism" where there was no use of central perspective and employed the splitting of forms. Some of the most famous works of this period were"Woman with Pearls" and "Bread and Fruit Dish on a Table" :





In 1911 he broke up with Fernande and started to date Eva Gouel. The second period of cubism was called "synthetic" or "collage" cubism. Both artists started to explore cutting and pasting scraps of material and mixing them with lines and paints, giving a unique texture to the composition. Some of the most famous works are "Still-Life with Chair Caning" and "The Guitar" :


His next periods were called Classicism and Surrealism and they ran from 1917 until 1936. Just as the rest of the world, art also changed because of World War I. Picasso’s work became more realistic and his colors much darker. Around 1916, while working on the scene for a Russian Ballet production he fell in love with Olga Koklova, a Russian Ballerina. She left the ballet and moved in with Picasso and they got married in 1918. His lifestyle changed and he started to move around the high society circles because of her connections, and Picasso was no longer living a bohemian life that he was used to. This seems to have changed his work as well. Picasso’s painting became more traditional and more serious, which he called "classicist style," and this phase of his career is well expressed in his painting, "The Lovers."

Another important composition of this classical period was "The Pipes of Pan" :


He kept working with decorations of ballet productions. Inspired by the birth of his first son, Paul, Picasso returned to painting "mother and child" theme, but he still worked with cubism. In 1921 he painted "The Three Musicians" :

This was the first Cubist work using people as subjects and became one of the most important pieces of cubist art. By that time Picasso was adored by his public. This created a crisis in his life, because no matter what kind of work he did, good or bad, people would still believe it was a great work just because it had Picasso’s signature on it. He wanted to know people’s real opinion about each piece of art he made. At the same time he was having problems with his wife Olga. Picasso decided to explore new horizons and started to experiment with sculptures using usual materials like shirts, nails, strings, among others.


In 1927 he met a young girl, Marie-Therese Walter, from an aristocratic family. They became lovers, and most of his work from then on became very visionary. In Marie-Therese’s portrait of 1932, "His Woman with Flower," he shows some of his surrealistic side:

However, his personal life was in turmoil. He could not finalize his divorce with Olga and Marie-Therese was pregnant with his child. Picasso released his anger in his work. He started to express it through his bull paintings and the famous "Tauromachia." His personal life became even more complicated when his daughter was born. He met another woman, Dora Maar, who became his lover.

His World War II experience was reflected in some of his work, but if I have to name his "masterpiece", I have to say it is "Guernica" :

One can feel the pain and hurt of a culture and its people. The use of different shades of gray and black fits the purpose of pain and agony that this giant painting depicts to those who viewed it. In 1937 he painted "Weeping Woman" as a postscript to "Guernica" :

When Paris was occupied by Nazis he faced them head on and accused them of having destroyed the city of Guernica in Spain, but probably because of his world popularity, he was not punished by the Nazis. He concluded the series of paintings he started with "Guernica" with a painting he called "Charnel House" :

This work was based on reports about concentration camps during World War II. In the painting one can see a pile of dead bodies. However, the war also brought some positive aspects to Picasso’s private life. It was during those years that he met Francoise Gillot, who would later become his third wife.

Picasso joined the communist party in 1944 and became active in the Peace Movement. His famous "Dove" was adopted by many peace organizations as the symbol of peace. In addition, he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and he always took humanistic positions on conflict issues. After W.W.II, Francoise had two children with Picasso. One named Claude and the other named Paloma (which means Dove in Spanish), which once again shows Picasso’s involvement with peace and his importance to the world, not as a unique artist, but as a humanistic activist.

He bought a villa close to Cannes in 1955. It reminded him of his beloved Barcelona, but the place became a tourist attraction and he ended up buying a chateau near Aix-en-Provance. There was also change in his art style. He started to use more black, white, and green colors. It seems that what bothered Picasso the most was that his art was replaced by his popularity. He refused to be labeled and his last works showed his versatility. His versions of Velazquez’s "Las Meninas" and Manet’s "Luncheon on the Grass" show his irreverence:

It also seems he was pushing the limits to see how far the admiration of his public would go. On April 8, 1973 art and the world lost Pablo Picasso.


Picasso the artist became the genius that can only be compared with few human beings. He rewarded art not just with his creative and unique styles, but also with the numerous paintings, drawings, and sculptures he produced. Picasso was a troubled, eccentric, problematic man who could never settle down with a woman or a place of residence, maybe what we could call a "free spirit". Picasso, the man, was also an activist. He fought for peace until his last days. However, no matter how troubled Picasso was, the man was overshadowed by his own art. In addition, even though one might not like his works, one cannot deny that without Picasso, modern art and the world would be much poorer, so that is why I decided to write about one of my favorite artists of all times, the unique Pablo Picasso.

Reference List

Leal, Brigitte, Christine Piot, and Marie-Laure Bernadac.
The Ultimate Picasso. New York: Abrams, 2000.

Yuri, and Sergey. Olga’s Gallery. 10 Dec. 2004. <>.

Surviving Picasso. Dir. Jeremy Irons.
Perf. Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. Warner Bros. 1996.