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 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
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
||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
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
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
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.